Sunday, September 29, 2002

Eighteen (18) Cents

As my 22 years old insomia takes over, I begin to feel like the character from the Sleepless in Seattle. I understand that a collection agency went after Wendy Ehringer of Seattle with a lawsuit demanding the grand total of 18 cents -- plus $311.26 in attorney's fees and other charges. 18 cents redefines 'small-claims' court. The court recognized litigation abuse when it saw it and applied the equivalent of sanctions -- but now Ehringer's lawyer is claiming to have put $7,600 worth of time into fighting the case, which is itself rather curious.

If I were an editor, I'd commission a piece on the theme of: 'The E-book Revolution Is Over, and E-books Have Won.' E-books Have Won.'
Political Lovers & Scallywags: Norma and I... in bed.

I do feel sorry for any woman named Edwina right now. It is official: John Major & Edwina Currie were lovers. In an interview with The Times' Ginny Dougary, Currie says, "What you need to remember, Ginny, is that politicians admire the element of the devious in each other. It is essential in order for someone to rise that they have some streak of ruthlessness in their character. And he had it. He had it."

Major won a libel suit against two magazines that had reported he was having an affair, forcing one out of business. The magazines that Major sued are likely to now sue him back. Lawyers for the publisher and the estate of the editor of Scallywag magazine, which went out of business after having to pay the financial damages awarded in the suit, say that although the magazine named the wrong woman in the affair, Mr Major's claim not to be 'an adulterer is wholly hollow.' The publishers of the New Statesman, 'crippled' by the suit, are also thinking of taking legal action against Major.

And the woman mistakenly named in those reports, Clare Latimer, now says she believes Major used her as a decoy. She expressed her bitterness to Times reporter Richard Ford, saying Major 'allowed my life to be crashed because he knew this allegation (of a relationship with her) was not true and to hide the real scandal that he was so terrified might come out.'

Once upon a major time faced with his career-breaking secret being stacked up on tables at WH Smith, Major responded with what can now be acknowledged as one of the most lethal ex-lover's put-downs in history, saying of Currie's novel: "Norma and I are reading it in bed and fighting over it", a phrase in which the invisibly italicised words are Norma and I... in bed.

In 30 years time Dr Watsons of political biographies are likely to dare to elaborate on whether any naughty characters had bothered to sleep with our belovered Paul Keating when he was in POWER.

Is there a way out of this mess? A few Mark Twain quotes on parliament and congress might help:

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography; also in Mark Twain in Eruption

Congressman is the trivialist distinction for a full grown man.
- Notebook #14, 11/1877 - 7/1878

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Want to get a leg up in the blogging game? Just pretend to be Sexy ..

My Slavic Konnekcion, Heather Havrilesky, has been nominated as the 'sexiest' female blogger. Visit her site entitled Rabbit Blog, the Shotgun Shack in Cyberspace.

ALL RIGHT, I'M GOING TO BED, but I'll leave you with - Dear Diary: I owe Ken Parish a drink. Today , out of all days, I'm beyond flattered that Ken has added my blog to his linked pages run by other insomiacs and library night watchmen. I find his work to be very insightful and well crafted. Now that he has linked me, I'm suddenly feeling the pressure to give this blog a more legitimate reason for existence ... I am the maiden Slavic Commoner taking part in the rich ozplogosphere: 'a veteran of Margo Kingston's Web Diary, and a discussion forum of which we are both members. Jozef keeps a close eye on the wonderful world of European op-ed pundits, and has kindly offered to make occasional selections for the Parish Pump Picks.'

Media Dragon is my one and only principal website. If you don't like it, I have others some even filled with slavish smiles & underground!

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
- T.S. Elliot

How many Chicago School economists does it take to change a lightbulb? None: if the bulb needed changing, the market would have done it already.

Friday, September 27, 2002

FRATERNAL AMNESIA: Spin Doctors Prepare to turn Government Failure Into Success

From "Education Premier" to "Prisons Premier" busily expanding jails and the number of inmates.

The PRESIDENT (LC 26 September 2002: During the Adjournment - Hon. Peter Breen, MLC) Bear Pit Order! 'Order! I will rule on the point of order on the point of order. The point of order of the Hon. Ian Macdonald is upheld. Members cannot introduce material into the debate that has anything to do with the substantive issue. The point of order must, indeed, be a point of order.'
All this due to what some refer to as Bulldog's Disorder.

A mixed mirage of letters from the Australian PRESIDENTE a.k.a. TOMATO SAUCE who feels very strongly about the issue of ripe age. ‘With all good wishes, yours fraternally. Gough Whitlam.' Will the Presidente Reap What He Has Sown?

Czech out Snakes & Ladders. The ancient admonition that 'pride goes before a fall' can be as true of political parties as it is of individuals who tend to create a whole smaller than the sum of their parts.
Vaclav Klaus, the key architect of post-1989 Czech politics, asks: have we slayed one dragon only to create another - double dragon?

Vaclav also brings to mind a perhaps apocryphal remark of the late Chinese statesman Zhou Enlai; when asked a few years after the Chinese Liberation of 1949 what he thought of the French Revolution, he replied “too early to tell”!

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Bravura entrepreneurial spirit

In a very dicey economic time for magazines, when many find it difficult to sustain themselves, two new ones have just started up, about books of all subjects. Which speaks not only to a particularly bravura entrepreneurial spirit but also to speculation that there are enough people out there who are willing to spend money for their love of commentary about books and the writers who produce them.

Is the English language Golden prison?

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Margo’s diary is for many readers daily bread online. At the speed of light, the virtual world tells us more about GORE'S SURPRISING ACT OF LEADERSHIP.

Michael Kinsley once noted 'what's shocking is not what's done that's illegal; it's what's done that's perfectly legal. The subject of his concerns - political fundraising

Monday, September 23, 2002

Good news at the Box Office

The numbers are in for the weekend, and the news is good! At the top of the list is Barbershop, a $12 million-budgeted film which took in $20.6 million over the three days. Next is the unstoppable My Big Fat Greek Wedding, crusing over the $110 million mark in total gross despite a budget of only $5 million. Then there's One Hour Photo, which cost $12 million to make and grossed $8 million in one weekend despite difficult subject matter and the fact that the intelligentsia in New York and LA have already had three weeks of limited release in which to see it.

What's more, each of the top three films was shown in fewer theatres than any of the films in the rest of the top ten. One Hour Photo, for instance, in 1,212 theatres, grossed more than Swimfan, in 2,860; Barbershop, in 1,605 theatres, almost quadrupled the gross of Signs, in 3,061.

Just blame for this dangerous trend all those Maverick Headmasters & Head Mistresses such as Marta Chamillova (smile) ...
Culture War with B-2's

Make note of Sept. 20, 2002. The day the empire struck back ...

M A R G O K I N G S T O N touches on the manifesto for world dictatorship. DOWD in her article on Imperial War suggests that Bush is like the guy who reserves a hotel room and then asks you to the prom.

A Collection of Quotes From Sen. William Fulbright's The Arrogance of Power still Ringing True.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Publish Independently or Perish

In a move that seems calculated to upset the large publishing concerns that helped his first book rocket to the top of the bestseller lists, Eggers is by-passing the party animals and self-publishing the highly anticipated Velocity.

Small independent publishers like the Double Dragon are not surprised to hear Eggers has eschewed the normal publishing route taken by writers of his stature. Only a chosen 100 independent bookstores are allowed to carry his new novel. So Velocity is not coming to a bookstore near your city.

Czech out what is coming to booksalons & bloggs near you in September.

Finally, just another travelling author elaborating on his odyssey through a poetic nation & dysfunctional relationship
The Great Bubble Show

Unless rents are set to rise fast, and there is little indication that this will happen while vacancy rates keep rising, something has to give. It's only a question of when.

As rich get richer and the young get poorer

Property Wars
Culture Wars

Proffesors hunger for status, and so must exclude the unanointed. It used to be Jews (they’d never grasp Milton). Now it’s people with the wrong political pieties ...

Bedlam By Mark, Oh well, No, Not Latham

Big Brother & Snobbery of 2004

George Orwell detested both imperialists and parlor leftists. He recognized that oppression can turn the oppressed into rotten people too ...

Orwell is famous for his intellectual honesty and his willingness occasionally to anger his allies on the left. Stories about honest people always inspire, whether they are set in second-century Rome or sixteenth-century China.

Unlike many writers, Orwell didn't commit the reverse snobbery of overpraising the downtrodden. He understood that one product of domination is that it can turn the dominated into rotten people too. Orwell also still matters to the extent that the ability to see through bogus rhetoric still matters.

When Winston Smith finished reading the occult "inner-party" book in Nineteen Eighty-Four, he noted: "The best books ... are those that tell you what you know already."

What Do We Really Know Already?

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Investing With Conscience

Are you looking for a way to merge your faith with your financial decisions? Investment in spiritually-based and socially conscious mutual funds is on the rise.

Links to selected spiritual and socially conscious mutual funds and indexes

Friday, September 20, 2002

Antipoedian Mania, 2003 AD, The Tulips we Had to Have and Obey

Miracle to meltdown is jumping from lots of pages of history

Manias are a basic part of human nature!
Whether it is a mania for the latest hot rock star singer, or a mania to buy a "really hot and sure thing" financial asset, manias have truly exerted their influence for centuries.

Unlike the ending of the fervor directed towards a rock star, the end of a financial mania can often have devastating effects.

The tulip was introduced into western Europe about the middle of the sixteenth century. Like the piece of dirt in Australian cities, the flower became a symbol of wealth. The rage for possessing tulips soon trickled down to the middle classes of society -- even those of modest means began to compete for the flowers and paid extraordinary prices for the bulbs. One Dutch trader paid one-half of his fortune for a single root. His plan was not to sell it for a profit, but to keep it for admiration by his friends!

People often become irrationally attached to that which gives them much trouble and pain. This is the most plausible explanation for the nonsensical importance paid to these delicate flowers.

In 1634, the desire to own the precious tulip was so great it directly affected the entire Dutch economy. As the craze increased, and in 1635 it became necessary to sell them by their weight in perits, a weight less than a grain.

Speculators made large profits by buying when prices fell and selling when prices were high; many became extravagantly rich. The operations of the trade became so intricate that a code of law was drawn up to govern the dealers.

Eventually, the more prudent began to recognize this rage could not last forever. The speculative bubble burst, prices fell, and confidence plummeted.

In the end, many found themselves the owners of bulbs that nobody would buy and victims of irrational speculation!

When you hear many extremely positive or negative stories it is often an indication that the "mania" has reached its extreme top or bottom. Everyone already knows about it, and in one way or another has already participated in it. This is usually the moment that prices reverse because of extreme sentiment!

Higher Emotional Order
Writers and witnesses never overcome; they just endure.

Bribes, threats and naked readings
In a world where more and more new books get less and less attention, authors will do anything to promote their work. So pity the poor book reviewer, her desk piled high with vanity press or self-published dross. The phone rings, and it’s yet another pestering and starving author demanding ... Read My Book or Else.

Fear of humiliation and the craving for humiliation are closely linked: psychologists know it, authors know it. And this turns out to be not only true but really true. True at even Bohemian President's and Antipodean Prime Minister's Level. The human spirit often considers itself unworthy, and surreptitiously craves punishment, while it promises itself to do better, day after day, after day. The self flagellation perseveres, and there is a dichotomy in which the person wants to be punished but carries on, internalizing the guilt while persevering. Just take it...
By writers_anon of ABCTales

Lying on the sun-buttered, wind-seared beach, drinking
Absinthe and ice water, he picks at his burning wounds.

This is between him and his conscience:
what he did and what he didn't do.

He sucks on his shame like a peppermint.
Walks it like a dog along the dunes.

He is a solo artist lighting his last cigarette,
shielding the flame against the pantomime wind.

A rapt audience of gulls watch his performance
without applause. He corks another empty bottle.

He knows what governs him: the stern-faced
black-handed clock which dismisses his excuses.

The word 'waste' imposes on his tongue.
Uncomfortable heartbeats rage in his chest.

Some say he is ruled by his head, some his beating heart.
He knows he is ruled by his mistakes.

He wishes he could cover his tracks with sand,
with horseshoe prints, with hand grenade blasts.

But he'd walked that beach mile from town and found her
corpse: like a stolen car abandoned and burnt-out by love.
'Vaclav Havel: The Playwright as President'

Speech given at City University of New York, Graduate Center, New York 20 September 2002

If you will allow me, I will at last try to gain some distance from myself and attempt to formulate three of my old certainties, or rather my old observations, that my sojourn in the world of high politics has only confirmed:

1) If humanity is to survive and avoid new catastrophes, then the global political order has to be accompanied by a sincere and mutual respect among the various spheres of civilization, culture, nations or continents, and by their honest effort to seek and find those values or basic moral imperatives that they have in common, and to build them into the foundations of their co-existence in this globally connected world.

2) Evil must be confronted in its womb and, if it can't be done otherwise, then it has to be dealt with by the use of force. If the immensely smart and expensive modern weaponry must be used, let it be used in such a way that does not harm civilian populations. If this is not possible, then the billions spent on those weapons will be wasted.

3) If we examine all the problems facing the world today, be they economic, social, ecological, or general problems of civilization, we will always _ whether we want to or not _ come up against the problem of whether a course of action is decent or not, or whether, from the long-term planetary point of view, it is responsible. The moral order and its sources, human rights and the sources of people's right to human rights, human responsibility and its origins, human conscience and the penetrating view of that from which nothing can be hidden with a curtain of noble words _ these are, in my deepest convictions and in all my experience, the most important political themes of our time.

The path of reason, peace, and justice means a lot of hard work, self-denial ...

Celebrities Can't Save Us

As world becomes increasingly preoccupied with celebrities, perhaps it's natural that we expect our CEOs to be charismatic and all-powerful. According to Rakesh Khurana, this misguided assumption means that many organizations seek an outside "White Knight" to save them and then are quickly disappointed when they do not find salvation: a quick turnaround. Khurana is an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School.

Victory Over Want is a good exemplar of the apt phrase Those who can, practice.
Librarians' Trusty Search Tool

In addition to the amazing search engine "Google," visit the Librarians' Index to the Internet LII for an index of all the information on the Internet. LII is user-friendly and noncommercial. It's a searchable, annotated directory, organized by subject, of more than 8600 online resources. Librarians select and evaluate the sites for their usefulness to public-library patrons.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Balding's ABC

Russell Balding notices a very large sign which reads "Welcome to our Town". We have two cemeteries, and no hospital. Drive carefully".

This tells Russell more about life in country towns than a hundred or so policy documents and submissions coming out of Sydney or Canberra. It also reminds Russell what ABC Radio means to people in the country areas.

"It reminds me that over the last two decades, under the pretence of micro economic reform, country towns in Australia were being left behind, when one by one the banks or the railway stations or the hospitals or the schools closed. Where big business and Governments failed regional and rural Australia - ABC Radio remained and continued to deliver quality broadcasting services both within and throughout those areas."

ABC of reflection "Years of doing more with less has taken its toll ... We are at the limit of our comprehensiveness without additional funding. There are no more rabbits left in the hat."

Russell has not changed and his promotional tone is our tone, even if his meanings are not always our meanings.

I have not forgotten the kindness of some of you who wrote that my appointment was a clear sign the ABC was about to enter a glamorous new era ... one characterised by brown cardigans, slip-on shoes and compulsory spreadsheet studies. I'm sorry, I've left the cardigan at home, but I am wearing the slip-on shoes.
The Democratization of Luxury Tax

If you want to understand material culture at the beginning of the 21st century, you must understand the overwhelming importance of unnecessary material.

Needing the Unnecessary
Scared to Death

It is better to ride the war horse to victory in November if you are in the White House and desperately distressed about more public discourse concerning your personal financial involvement with Harken, Halliburton, and Enron. War talk is also good for your reelection chances if you are a member of the gang over at Capitol Hill who are scared to death of more stories about big campaign contributions and maybe even a few inside stock tips from the lobbyists and executives of WorldCom or Global Crossing.

Where Are The Conservatives Today? 
Is Democracy Still Alive In The Halls Of Congress?

The following speech by David DeLeon was given at a press conference announcing the historians' petition to Congress, on Sept. 17, 2002.

We stand near the outer shell of the United States Congress. Is democracy still alive inside? Or, are we living in the last days of something like the late Roman republic, where actual power was in the grasp of Caesars? Where are the conservatives today who defend the Constitution against executive arrogance?

Where are the champions of limited government? Will they, after the President deigns to consult them, rubber stamp a resolution granting him enormous powers of life and death? The Constitution would be mocked and subverted by such a resolution.

Global Horses on Devils
First Library of the People Marks 150 Busy Years

Britain's first public lending library opened in Manchester 150 years ago this month, an event so significant for literacy and democracy that Dickens felt compelled to make the trip north.

"[This is an institution] knowing no sect, no party and no distinction; nothing but the public want and the public good," he said in a speech at the formal inauguration.

One may argue that we have so much to do in our everyday lives, why "brood over the tragic aspects of the human condition, public want and the public good?" But the moment of such contemplation may turn out to be much more pragmatic and save thousands years of senseless suffering.

Like library network, Victory Over Want (VOW) connects people who are exploring new ways of thinking and new ways of being. Based in Vienna, it is an evolving learning community with members in several countries.

As Dr James Cumes, the initiator of VOW rightly points out, 'People who taste real vision are the luckiest and happiest people in the world.'

If you feel you would like to make sure your voice stops poverty and bullets please consider checking out VOW. It virtually is only a click away.

Guardians of Liberty
The Library Refuge

VOW to Generate Opportunities
Steps families can take to be as happy and in as many different ways as they can.

To hell with happiness ... what are you doing to make yourself unhappy?

Act happy


Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Erections In America

Dear Commissioner Harris...when it comes to erections in America...assume crooks are in control...and then act accordingly.

Ok. Add Dr. Evil to the mix and be on the look-out for international money launderers, drug kingpins ...

Monday, September 16, 2002

When "Big" is Bad, and When It Isn't

For decades, news outlets have been hammering government: from city halls, county boards and state legislatures to Congress and the White House. Under the glare of media spotlights, government can look awful--with defects ranging from chronic inefficiency to notable corruption.

Small wonder that many people are convinced the public sector is dysfunctional and perhaps downright evil. The private sector, however, generally eludes media scrutiny. Its activities are ordinarily assumed to require little accountability, much less approval, from the public.


Downright Evil
For Sale: One Soul
Price: Vast Amount of Family & Friends
Contact: The Devil

"It is not as easy to sell a book as one might think," says Art Buchwald, who happens to have a new book out, "We'll Laugh Again." In his column in the Washington Post, Art gives his notes on a recent book signing: "12:30 p.m. Asked manager if he was sure he advertised in the newspaper. He replies: "Of course I did. There is no sense having a book signing if no one hears about it." The manager tells the security guard he is no longer needed."

A Lesson Before Dying
Selling Soul To Dragons Just Got Sexy
Power of One

Combine all handy devices into one super-gadget - a kind of digital Swiss Army knife. A knife which even makes coffee!

Digital Swiss Army Knife
Tax breaks for parents 'fairer than paid leave'

Barry Maley has proposed replacing the current system with a universal child care allowance or tax credit of $4000 per child each year.

"Compulsory maternity leave would be a work benefit conditional on limiting the mother's absence from work, thus putting pressure upon a mother to return to work."

Universal Child

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Democracy @ Risk

"Only in variety is there freedom." - Walter Lippman

American democracy is endangered by mediaconglomerates more interested in short-term profits than news and public service.

Blethen says that bottom-line-focused media corporations are loathe to spend sufficient money on vigorous news reporting, thereby jeopardizing the press's role of preserving the American system of checks and balances. "Where is the watchdog?" he asks. "Right now, it's a lap dog."

Democracy must have four legs. Each leg is essential. Take one away, and it's only a matter of time until our grand 226-year experiment topples.

Four-legged Democratic Stool

Friday, September 13, 2002

Do-it-Yourself Mainstreams

The rants are pulsing through the blog-o-sphere again, which, on most days, would mean that the online community is in its usual state of trippy high drama. Except that, this time, the topic is a radical expansion of the blog-o-sphere itself, one that would include a contingent of--quick, bottoms up on the Red Bull--traditional journalists (the ones who write, as the lexicon has it, dead-tree pieces).

Red Bull
Me, Myself and My Modest Name Dropping

In friendship, good taste it would be tact, generosity, and kindness; in possessions, comfort, elegance, and utility; in art, beauty and originality; in culture, tolerance.

Who is Rich?
Sasha’s Spirit

Alexander Pushkin’s spirit was extinguished not just by a regime, but by his own inner self. That’s true tragedy, and that is Russia.

What do you do if you are a brilliant poet with libertarian instincts and your homeland is your prison?

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Some of Us Did Not Die

A year ago, I stumbled up here to Union Square looking for other people who were feeling as I was: shocked, sad, angry, scared. I was looking for other people - and it turned out that a lot of us were doing the same thing - looking for people who wanted to talk, to ask questions, to debate, to grieve.

Stand Up
911

Americans have not yet learned the tragic lesson that the most powerful cannot be loved¡¬™hated, envied, feared, obeyed, respected, even honored perhaps, but not loved.


Superpowers

Monday, September 09, 2002

Kaplan's Secrets & Confessions

Re-dreaming is the last thing a writer does before sending the manuscript off to their agent or publisher.

Literaly Literary - Edit or Die
Father of All Fears

Man will become better when you show him what he is like,” Chekhov wrote. Showing us what we’re like is Steven Pinker’s life project.

Most intellectuals today have a phobia of any explanation of the mind that invokes genetics. They're afraid of four things.

First there is a fear of inequality. The great appeal of the doctrine that the mind is a blank slate is the simple mathematical fact that zero equals zero. If we all start out blank, then no one can have more stuff written on his slate than anyone else. Whereas if we come into the world endowed with a rich set of mental faculties, they could work differently, or better or worse, in some people than in others. The fear is that this would open the door to discrimination, oppression, or eugenics, or even slavery and genocide.

Of course this is all a non sequitur. As many political writers have pointed out, commitment to political equality is not an empirical claim that people are clones. It's a moral claim that in certain spheres we judge people as individuals, and don't take into account the statistical average of the groups that they belong to. It's also a recognition that however much people might vary, they have certain things in common by virtue of their common human nature. No one likes to be humiliated or oppressed or enslaves or deprived. Political equality consists of recognizing, as the Constitution says, that people have certain inalienable rights, namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Recognizing those rights is not the same thing as believing that people are indistinguishable in every respect.

The second fear is the fear of imperfectability. If people are innately saddled with certain sins and flaws, like selfishness, prejudice, sort-sightedness, and self-deception, then political reform would seem to be a waste of time. Why try to make the world a better place if people are rotten to the core and will just screw it up no matter what you do? Again, this is a faulty argument. We know that there can be social improvement because we know that there has been social improvement, such as the end of slavery, torture, blood feuds, despotism, and the ownership of women in Western democracies. Social change can take place, even with a fixed human nature, because the mind is a complex system of many parts. Even if we do have some motives that tempt us to do awful things, we have other motives that can counteract them. We can figure out ways to pit one human desire against another, and thereby improve our condition, in the same way we manipulate physical and biological laws—rather than denying they exist—to improve our physical condition. We combat disease, we keep out the weather, we grow more crops, and we can jigger with our social arrangements as well.

A good example is the invention of democratic government. As Madison argued, by instituting checks and balances in a political system, one person's ambition counteracts another's. It's not that we have bred or socialized a new human being who's free of ambition. We've just developed a system in which these ambitions are kept under control.

Another reason that human nature doesn't rule out social progress is that many features of human nature have free parameters. This has long been recognized in the case of language, where some languages use the mirror-image of the phrase order patterns found in English but otherwise work by the same logic. Our moral sense may also have a free parameter as well. People in all cultures have an ability to respect and sympathize with other people. The question is, with which other people? The default setting of our moral sense may be to sympathize only with members of our clan or village. Over the course of history, a knob or a slider has been adjusted so that a larger and larger portion of humanity is admitted into the circle of people whose interests we consider as comparable to our own. From the village or clan the moral circle has been expanded to the tribe, the nation, and most recently to all of humanity, as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's an idea that came from the philosopher Peter Singer in his book The Expanding Circle. It's an example of how we can enjoy social improvement and moral progress even if we are fitted with certain faculties, as long as those faculties can respond to inputs. In the case of the moral sense the relevant inputs may be a cosmopolitan awareness of history and the narratives of other peoples, which allow us to project ourselves into the experiences of people who might otherwise be treated as obstacles or enemies.

The third fear is a fear of determinism: that we will no longer be able to hold people responsible for their behavior because they can they can always blame it on their brain or their genes or their evolutionary history—the evolutionary-urge or killer-gene defense. The fear is misplaced for two reasons. One is that the silliest excuses for bad behavior have in fact invoked the environment, rather than biology, anyway—such as the abuse excuse that got the Menendez brothers off the hook in their first trial, the "black rage" defense that was used to try to exonerate the Long Island Railroad gunman, the "pornography made me to it" defense that some rapists have tried. If there's a threat to responsibility it doesn't come from biological determinism but from any determinism, including childhood upbringing, mass media, social conditioning, and so on.

But none of these should be taken seriously in the first place. Even if there are parts of the brain that compel people to do things for various reasons, there are other parts of the brain that respond to the legal and social contingencies that we call "holding someone responsible for their behavior." For example, if I rob a liquor store, I'll get thrown in jail, or if I cheat on my spouse my friends and relatives and neighbors will think that I'm a boorish cad and will refuse to have anything to do with me. By holding people responsible for their actions we are implementing contingencies that can affect parts of the brain and can lead people to inhibit what they would otherwise do. There's no reason that we should give up that lever on people's behavior—namely, the inhibition systems of the brain—just because we're coming to understand more about the temptation systems.

The final fear is the fear of nihilism. If it can be shown that all of our motives and values are products of the physiology of the brain, which in turn was shaped by the forces of evolution, then they would in some sense be shams, without objective reality. I wouldn't really be loving my child; all I would be doing is selfishly propagating my genes. Flowers and butterflies and works of art are not truly beautiful; my brain just evolved to give me a pleasant sensation when a certain pattern of light hits my retina. The fear is that biology will debunk all that we hold sacred.

This fear is based on a confusion between two very different ways to explain behavior. What biologists call a "proximate" explanation refers to what is meaningful to me given the brain that I have. An "ultimate" explanation refers to the evolutionary processes that gave me a brain with the ability to have those thoughts and feelings. Yes, evolution (the ultimate explanation for our minds) is a short-sighted selfish process in which genes are selected for their ability to maximize the number of copies of themselves. But that doesn't mean that we are selfish and short sighted, at least not all the time. There's nothing that prevents the selfish, amoral process of natural selection evolution from evolving a big-brained social organism with a complex moral sense. There's an old saying that people who appreciate legislation and sausages should not see them being made. That's a bit like human values—knowing how they were made can be misleading if you don't think carefully about the process. Selfish genes don't necessarily build a selfish organization.

Czech Off
Bright Summers Turn to Bleak Winters of Trust

Nowhere seems safe after the frightening events of the past 12 months.

People were sickened by the NSW Wood Royal Commission revelations of systematic corruption, by evidence that too many people were more interested in lining their pockets than in protecting the people they had pledged to serve. Now they worry whether the bad old days might be creeping back, that the reform agenda went out the window with the former police commissioner. Can we trust our police? The answer is, we simply don't know.

Nowhere is safe and there is no-one to run to.

Spiritual Dust

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Publish and be Remaindered

Book publishing: houses have gobbled each other up, good editors have become agents, mature authors lie at the mercy of 12-year-olds ...

In addition, vast sums are lavished on already-rooted and blooming authors, leaving nothing to nourish potential seedlings, and, as James Frey reveals in How to Write Damn Good Fiction, 30 per cent of the hardcover books published in America go "directly from the printer to the remainder house" (same here). In other words, editors completely goof it 30 per cent of the time. They are just people. Perhaps the problem arises in the corporate atmosphere where the people employed as editors frantically seize on manuscripts in order to do some editing, thereby justifying their positions.

A Publishing Manifesto: 2002
Parliamentary Mandarines

While the clerks are depicted as experts in their field, the three in question are seen more ‘gentlemen than players’. ‘What their job was no Member knew; what their purpose was, not even they quite understood. From day to day, they performed small rituals, and they recorded, and they checked what they had recorded ...’ (p. 41). What is striking is the disdain they show for parliamentary representatives as a class and for the parliamentary process:

‘(The clerks of the House of Commons) have no respect for them (Members); they laugh at them; they compile lists of the twenty most idiotic Members, and the twenty most debauched; they do not work for them ... they treat Members to their faces with civility, and behind their backs as inferior undergraduates who have mistaken their ambitions. (p. 40)’


Unimaginable Culture

Saturday, September 07, 2002

*PASSALONG

What type of bread for tashlich works best for YOUR sins?

On Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) there is a ceremony called Tashlich where Jews traditionally go to the ocean or a warm stream or cold river to pray and throw bread crumbs into the water. Symbolically, the fish devour their sins.
Occasionally, people ask what kind of bread crumbs should be thrown. Here are suggestions for breads which may be most appropriate for specific sins and misbehaviors.

For ordinary sins.....................White Bread
For erotic sins.........................French Bread
For particularly dark sins..........Pumpernickel
For complex sins.....................Multigrain
For twisted sins.......................Pretzels
For tasteless sins....................Rice Cakes
For sins of indecision...............Waffles
For sins committed in haste.....Matzoh
For sins of chutzpah................Fresh Bread
For substance abuse...............Stoned Wheat
For use of heavy drugs.............Poppy Seed
For shady political donations.....................Stollen
For committing auto theft.........Caraway
For timidity/cowardice..............Milk Toast
For ill-temperedness................Sourdough
For silliness, eccentricity.........Nut Bread
For not giving full value.............Shortbread
For jingoism, chauvinism..........Yankee Doodles
For excessive irony..................Rye Bread
For unnecessary chances........Hero Bread
For war-mongering...................Kaiser Rolls
For dressing immodestly..........Tarts
For causing injury to others......Tortes
For lechery and promiscuity.....Hot Buns
For promiscuity with gentiles....Hot Cross Buns
For racist attitudes..................Crackers
For sophisticated racism..........Ritz Crackers
For being holier than thou.........Bagels
For abrasiveness.....................Grits
For dropping in without notice...Popovers
For overeating.........................Stuffing
For impetuosity.......................Quick Bread
For indecent photography.........Cheesecake
For raising your voice too often...Challah
For pride and egotism...............Puff Pastry
For sycophancy, ass-kissing.....Brownies
For being overly smothering.......Angel Food Cake
For laziness.............................Any long loaf
For telling bad jokes/puns........Corn Bread
For substance abuse/marijuana - Stoned Wheat
For substance abuse/heavy drugs - Poppy Seed
For arson - Toast
For high-handedness - Napoleons
For being sulky - Sourdough
For silliness - Nut Bread
For war-mongering - Kaiser Rolls
For promiscuity - Hot Buns
For being holier-than-thou - Bagels
For snobbery - Upper Crusts
For indecent photography - Cheesecake
For trashing the environment - Dumplings
For being hypercritical - Pancakes
For political skullduggery - Bismarcks
For over-eating - Stuffing Bread or Bulky Rolls
For gambling - Fortune Cookies
For pride - Puff Pastry
For not giving full value - Shortbread
For risking one's life unnecessarily - Hero Bread
For rearing children incompetently - Raisin Bread
For immodest parliamentary behavior - Tarts
For hardening our hearts - Jelly Doughnuts
For excessive use of irony - Rye Bread
For larceny (especially of copyrighted material) - Stollen

Remember, you don't have to show your crumbs to anyone.

For those (politicians and journalists) who require a wide selection of crumbs, an attempt will be made to have pre-packaged Taschlikh Mix available in three grades (Taschlikh Lite, Medium, and Industrial Strength) at Officemax digital stores everywhere.

*'Passalongs' are those e-mails you get from co-workers and friends. They seem plausible but their origins (and veracity) have been lost in countless generations of forwarding.

Kollector of Throwaway Crumbs

Digital Bookstore

OverDrive, Inc., a leading provider of digital media and eCommerce solutions, announced today it has partnered with OfficeMax, Inc. (NYSE: OMX) to open the OfficeMax.com Digital Bookstore. The new online digital library at (www.ebooks.officemax.com) is stocked with best-selling titles in Microsoft Reader, Adobe Acrobat and Palm eBook formats ready to help business owners increase knowledge, boost productivity, and manage their companies successfully. OverDrive, Inc and OfficeMax.com do what others don't dare. They are adventurous and innovative. Exploring new literary avenues, channels and methods of reaching and influencing the market.

The OfficeMax.com Digital Bookstore features bold literary works and top management, finance, computer and reference titles from AOL Time Warner Book Group, Double Dragon Publishing, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, Random House, St. Martin's Press, and other leading literary, business and technology publishers. All titles are available for immediate purchase and download to desktop PCs, laptops, Pocket PCs, Palm PDAs and other mobile devices. OfficeMax.com customers are able to develop their own personal digital library from which they can securely retrieve their business titles 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"And the thousands of fishes moved as a huge beast, piercing the water. They appeared united, inexorably bound to a common fate. How comes this unity?"
—Anonymous, 17th century

Digital Unity
OverDrive ColdRiver

Friday, September 06, 2002

Endless Links to Bloglads (lassies) and Ads

Is there gold in them thar blogs? There sure is, if Blogads has anything to do with it.

Feel Like Logging?
Are Weblogs Changing Our Culture?

“From: Andrew Sullivan
To: Kurt Andersen
Subject: The Blogosphere Weighs In”

Is blogging more suited to individualism than collectivism? A blog works if it addresses its audience, whether that audience is five or 500 or 5,000. In fact, many blogs, by their precise nature, are never going to get that big. So, why worry about the bigger fish? Enjoy yourselves in Warm River ...
Andy Warhola would approve of logging JUST for JOY

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Pondering The Shadow Government

We realize that the shadow government, like all Cold War concepts, is inherently an extremely bureaucratic response to something of unimaginable horror. Bureaucracies are brilliant at self-preserving. Washington might be destroyed, thousands killed, beloved landmarks and national shrines and beautiful old neighborhoods wiped out, but, thanks to the shadow government, the Department of Commerce would still function.

And then we get slightly miffed, feeling overlooked. The White House has created a shadow Executive Branch but, to date, no shadow Congress or shadow Judiciary or shadow Smithsonian Institution or shadow Expense Account Restaurant. Nor are there any shadow Gotcha Journalists or shadow Smarmy Lobbyists or shadow Protesters Championing Lost Causes or shadow Tourists Inexplicably Lined Up at the Hard Rock Cafe. There are no shadow Exploding Manhole Covers. There are no shadow Former Gators.

If the government really wants to replace Washington it needs to expand this "shadow" thing by a factor of 10. But it has to be careful that it doesn't make the shadow government too big, because then we would once again have created something so valuable and important that we couldn't risk its destruction by terrorists – and we'd have to create, as a backup, a shadow shadow government.

a shadow shadow government
The laws of applause

The best way to generate loud applause is to buy it. By the late 18th century in Paris, being a member of the claque had become a paid professional activity, the "chef de claque" typically attending a production's final rehearsals in order to plan his clapping strategy.

When the famous actress Rachel complained that her second performance received less applause than the first, the chef de claque actually wrote an offended letter to the lady, explaining: "At the first performance I led the attack in person 33 times. We had three acclamations, four hilarities, two thrilling movements, four renewals of applause and two indefinite explosions," all this effort so exhausting the claque that they had to make some cuts on the second night.

chef de claque

Monday, September 02, 2002

Professional Provocateur

In an age of mandatory multiculturalism and groupthink -- where well-intentioned but stale pieties stand in for close scrutiny on the left, and shrill but defensive assertions parade as rigorous criticism on the right -- it is altogether tonic to have a writer such as V. S. Naipaul in our midst. Throughout his long and prolific career, Naipaul, who was knighted in 1990 and awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 2001 (in a rare instance of merit triumphing over politics), has never bothered to check the cultural pulse before offering his blunt, often incendiary opinions. Although he has won the Booker Prize as well as various other British prizes and has lived in England since the age of 18, he continues to see himself as an outsider. ''I could not have done this writing in any other country,'' he explained in a recent interview. ''To that extent, I am a British writer.''

Naipaul's position is that of someone in a permanent state of exile who has never lost sight -- despite his success and the acclaim that has come with it -- of his precarious status as a minority within a minority. (Although, true to form, he has mocked the very notion of exile, questioning what it means ''in a world of cheap airfares'' where everyone ''can go home.'') He was born in 1932 and grew up in a large Indian family, the second of seven children, in the tiny and impoverished town of Port of Spain, Trinidad; his Hindu grandfather came over as an indentured servant. In 1950, Naipaul left for Oxford on a government scholarship and looked back rarely -- and then mostly in disdain. According to the letters that are collected in ''Between Father and Son,'' he endured the entrenched snobbery of university life by dint of gritty application (he set set himself to reading straight through chunks of literature: ''Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Donne, Marlowe, etc.'') and care packages from home (which typically included cigarettes as well as canned staples like sugar and juice). While still at Oxford he married a fellow student, whom he described grudgingly in a letter to his family as ''not unintelligent or altogether unattractive.'' (The unsung Pat, who died in 1996, would go on to suffer Naipaul's temper, infidelities, and general neglect -- he rarely made mention of her in his writing and usually left her home when he went anywhere grand -- in the name of her quiet belief in his genius.) Through sheer will and perseverance, living on the money he made from piecemeal assignments and his wife's income as a schoolteacher, Naipaul proceeded to hurl himself at the cliquish London literary world, turning out three novels before he was 30, and going on to cement his reputation with what many consider to be his best novel, ''A House for Mr. Biswas'' (1961) -- a tender and funny portrait based on his father, a struggling journalist who dreamed of literary glory. (V. S. Pritchett, usually the least parochial of critics, once described Naipaul as ''a brilliant chameleon from the Caribbean,'' and went on to note approvingly that unlike other novelists of color -- to use a designation neither writer would employ -- he knew his place: ''He feels his pain, but he is in command.'')

Yet although he is as entitled as anyone to claim the prerogatives of the disenfranchised, Naipaul has always eschewed the rhetoric of marginality. ''To be a victim,'' he has observed, ''is to be absurd.'' Possessed of a vigorous, casually elegant prose style and infinite curiosity, he has managed to elude every possible ideological niche while producing an extraordinary body of work -- 26 books in all, including almost equal amounts of fiction and non-fiction -- over the past 45 years. With his unbowed independence of mind, his pessimistic convictions about the inevitable abuse of power and the durability of human avarice, Naipaul has been a thorn in the side of bien-pensant types of every political stripe.

To be a cold victim is to be absurd.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Double Dragon, Publisher Who Gave Cold River A Voice, Wins Publisher's Award

Double Dragon Publishing emerged as the real winner of the reader's heart and mind. Double Dragon's books invoke something which leaves the reader thinking, "The world is black, we're doomed, life is absurd, I enjoyed that and I feel a strange urge to be really nice to everyone."

Jozef Imrich always believed that there was a chance to put a message out there of meaning and substance rather than appealing to baser interests.

Publisher Appreciation Award website notes "We will be selecting those who create their sites with the reader in mind!"

Winners in 2002 have been ...

Jan 2002: St Martin's Press
Feb 2002: Silver Dagger Mysteries
March 2002: Time Warner
April 2002: Poisoned Pen Press
May 2002: Pengin Putnam
June 2002: Timber Wolf Press
July 2002: HarperCollins
August 2002: Double Dragon Publishing

Book publishing has been bought, lock–stock–and–barrel, by international corporate entities who perceive book publishing within the same context they perceive Hollywood entertainment. Shallow entertainment continues to be a growth industry that can be leveraged, bought out, sold, & traded like pork rind futures. Nevertheless, in order to remain in the forefront of fashion & thought, coporate perspective is forced to turn to ideas & visions that live somewhere at the digital edge.

Writers in the e-publishing industry are here to stay. It's just going to take some time to build the industry. But building it we are. There is no stopping stories like Cold River from reaching the readers.

Cold River is a story of duel. It is a duel between two unequal adversaries: an exceedingly powerful state and insignificant individuals.

This duel is so much more than just a story, a riveting story of trial and escape, and of rebirth. It is, in its essence, a moving and dramatic tale of one man’s quest for freedom; not just in a physical sense, but an emotional one as well.

The agonies of the creative process as well as the ecstasies are more likely to be located in digital waters. Digital writers do what they do because they have a passion for the truth and a noble desire to selflessly slay dragons for the greater good.

Digital publishing industry is not like just any other industry. It’s a pioneering business, sure. It’s a profession, absolutely. But it is more than a business and a profession. Storytelling is a craft. It is a way of life.

Storytelling is a passion. It is a passion for explaining a complex world. It is a passion for the power of the written word.

And, most importantly publishing is a “calling.” A calling, a habit of the heart.

For a cynic like myself, someone who has earned the moniker Darkside among his Antipodean, Bohemian and Canadian friends, I am frighteningly optimistic about epublishing ...

Double Dragon Boosts Bedtime Reading


CEO Greed: Worker Sacrifice

How come some of America's worst CEOs make more in a year than the best CEOs of earlier generations made in their lifetimes?

Spirit of Sacrifice: Do As I Preach
In NY man gets number. Man makes call. Man pays for dinner. Man makes next call. Man pays for next dinner. Woman doesn't invite man home. Woman doesn't even kiss man. Woman says, "Thank you and goodnight."

Now maybe I'm an ugly bugger with no personality