Mimesis and Violence

The Lives Of Othersjahn
September 27, 2007, 10:26 am
Filed under: Art, International, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Photography, Religion

Life Goes On In Tehran. A photoblog I was recently linked to. Stylistically a cameraphone still-life of Iran. Very good stuff.


Mediocher Spellers Untie
September 22, 2007, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Google, Internet

definitely vs. definately

Is it just me, or are you too seeing this “definately” spelling everywhere? I think I’d understand it if “a” was somewhere near “i” on the keyboard or if anyone pronounced “definitely” with the “ately” ending. Must be more national retardation.

So the real question is: who smacked us all upside the head on Jan 1. 2005?***

(*** Or, why did Google only start logging misspellings on January 1st 2005?)

Scissor Me Xerxes!
September 20, 2007, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Climatology, Google, Science

Today at Google we had a yuppie white woman self-congratulationathon.

Laurie David and Cambria Gordon came to visit us, to hawk their children’s book, to preach to the converted. The converted, it turns out, well … let’s say some of them are Marranos.

OK, so I set the tone there, but let me backtrack a bit. I’m not gonna take issue with Laurie and Cambria’s mission. Children should be educated about climatology, issues of environmentalism, how extract the flaccid rod of laziness and apathy from our planetary anus. No, it’s their attitude that I take issue with. Laurie and Cambria sorta know the science. And by sorta, I mean they’ve heard it all a thousand times and kind of listened a little bit, got the gist but neglected to ask any real clarifying questions, nodded on the inside and out because the gloss was good enough to wet their panties.

Basically what I’m saying is that these two lovely women know the science of global warming at the level you’d need to know it to preach to a 3rd grader about how good recycling is. They know some handy metaphors, they can make the stuff relatable, but when pressed they don’t really know any details and can only respond to complex questions with ad hominem attacks or brush offs. Good enough to write the kids’ book, but perhaps not good enough to handle a reasonably educated and read adult with some questions.

So an older engineer approaches the mic first at the start of the Q&A session. He asks why, with all this talk of carbon footprints, why the feel-good folk remedies listed in the book don’t tell the reader what percentage of the average person’s carbon footprint that particular remedy would, well, remedy. Essentially his point is that it’s a numbers game and we might as well make the highest leverage moves that we can afford to, both individually and organizationally, that feel-good folk remedies proffered based on gut instinct and a back of the envelope calculation aren’t good enough. It’s all well and good, says the engineer, to tell people to buy recycled toilet paper, new light bulbs, or hybrid cars, but what if it takes more energy to produce, use, and dispose of a hybrid Prius than it does to do the same with a regular old Camry? If that’s the case then you’re failing in your own terms, says the engineer. One of the women, not sure which, replies that it’s up to each and every one of us (I also want a hug!) to make these sorts of decisions for ourselves.

Seriously? It’s not like this is a subjective thing. Either a particular move hurts the environment or it helps. You don’t just get to pick the one that sounds the best. You’ve got to be right.

Now I know there’s an eternal divide between engineers and the rest, but I don’t think that there’s anything essentially different about my desire for self-preservation and that of a salon-meeting-holding wealthy Californian cheerleader turned socialite cum advocate. When it comes to issues of this magnitude you’d think that people would be less concerned with the length of their coattails and more concerned with planetary survival. But Laurie and Cambria’s way of talking the talk without really talking at all – that’s just attention grabbing.

Now another engineer approaches the mic. He’s less than pleased and more than a bit confrontational. Certainly he lacks some of the social graces Cambria and Laurie were born finding effortless. But he’s got a certain degree of the truth on his side. This engineer, he wants to know why it is that the anyone who’s funded by oil companies gets instantly defamed. Given that the US government won’t fund any “skeptics” (since when does holding your beliefs up to the light for examination make you as a bad guy?), and everyone’s gotta get funding somewhere, this is not a question without merit. He wants to know how it is that these two can be so flippant about the science. He wants to know why it is that there’s a mislabeled graph in their book. He wants to know not because he’s being paid to criticize them by oil companies. Rather, because their way of labeling the graph shows global temperature following global carbon dioxide levels while the original academic paper shows it the other way around.

Laurie and Cambria don’t like his tone. To be fair I didn’t either. Even I have a few more social graces than this guy. But they ignore his question, brush it off with invective, and receive a round of applause from all the self-congratulators in the audience. I’m sorry Laurie, Cambria. The exact relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature matters. Causation and correlation are not the same thing. More broadly, the science matters, order matters, the numbers matter. The details matter. Playing fast and loose with the science means that you, Mrs. David and Gordon, are in this more for the glory than the goal. And that is shameful.

Also, my roommate and I really hope you’re buying carbon offsets for all the printing of your sure to be popular book that I sure didn’t pay for (thanks Google!).

September 18, 2007, 7:49 pm
Filed under: Poverty, Prose

Gets me every time.

It’s not that he’s poor. It’s not. It’s that he’s supplicating.
Down on one knee, on the floor of the uptown 1. Before me. ME.

This, I think, is a broken man.

His hair is greasy, but that’s just a symptom. It’s long too – it covers his face. He just raises the tattered coffee cup.

I assume it pains him as much
to make eye contact
as it wounds me
to see myself through his eyes.
To Look Up and See Down.
To Look Down and See Up.

But my eyes are open.

It’s not the poverty. No. It’s the position.

He begs. No reservations. No hesitation. Those are long gone.
For a quarter. A dime. A penny.
My change – I loathe it.
The shit I leave in a cup on my desk.
For years on end. Maybe I buy a Coke.

This, I think, is a broken man.