The World Wide Word

I just stumbled upon this site: Bible Gateway. I'm not much of one for religion from a belief side of things, but being a religious studies major in undergraduate I can always appreciate a good resource.

Bible Gateway isn't about to replace my Oxford's Annotated Bible, but it is a pretty good, and free, online source to the bible text. My major beefs are that it only includes the Protestant Canon, leaving out the apocrypha, which are some of my favorite. Also it doesn't have the best part of the OAB, the annotation!

But you can search the texts by keyword, and it has this, which is cool: you can view a passage not only in many language translations, but in different translations and articulations in the same language. Its like a modern day Hexapla! You can really see how loose the language of the bible really is, and how taking any passage literally is literally an exercise in dogmatics. Just try comparing a passage between the three different King James Versions. There is no "literally" when it comes to the bible, because the literature is easy to change! This is a perfect example why any sort of "Bible Code" theory is ridiculous, let alone citing a passage as an example of literal holy law.

The bible is one of the greatest books ever, but it is only great if you can understand what it is. It's an evolving fluid text that traces the history of a large portion of a culture's belief structure. If you want to belief it is the word of god, then fine, but ask yourself why the word of god changes so easy when you click the "Update" button of the version selection. Because God is the Internet? Whoa... subject for a different post...

Hearts of Palm

An office narrative, the experience of which made my day:

At one moment of the three hours I was standing at the copy machine yesterday, two late-40s-early-50s men walked towards each other from either end of the hallway in which the machine resides. They were each wearing striped collared shirts and ties, and casual chinos--it being friday--outfits in that ubiquitous vein of never-out-of-fashion-but-never-quite-in that countless fathers all across the country buy in profusion. All day such men pass behind me as I stand at the machine, in similar abundance, never differentiating themselves from each other. But as these two approached each other, with their eclipse to be at the point in the hallway in which I stood, I turned to give the standard, socially compulsory glance to assure I was not blocking the passage, or at least give the impression of such assiduity. The two men greeted each other in standard volume, as if their acknowledgement was no more obligatory than my head turn.

"Hello, Frank!"

"Hi, Sam!"

But then, the amazing happened. The two men, without changing their gait or their vector, simultaneously raised their left hands, and as they passed each other--American-style, on the right--exchanged one of the most solid, vertical, palm to palm old-school high-fives I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Then men continued on their paths without another word, completely devoid of irony or further conversation.
My life was immediately changed for the better. As I continued to produce facsimiles of about a zillion more author-agreement contracts, I basked in the simple, unscripted and unmitigated glory of masculine camaraderie on a friday afternoon. There was no reason for the greeting, no conversational prelude or other contextual symbolism other than pure platonic affection among men. I had not taken part in this high-five, but with the slap of these men-of-industry's palms I was transported to a higher level of consciousness, where jobs do not suck and our species moves with the solidarity and determination of a single mind.


Parental Advisory

I might have mentioned Pandora before, I can't recall. Anyway, another shoutout, because it is really a wonderful concept. The user rates songs and then based upon "genetic attributes" of the song and artist, the Flash program plays similar music in streaming format, creating one's own personal internet radio station. Despite my issues with genetic theory (haha) it is a great way for getting a taste of music one might like but has never heard.

Since my iPod died yesterday, internet radio has been displacing silence at work for me. Listening to Pandora today, I heard a Robert Palmer song on my Pandora station, I Hate the World in the 80s Radio. Now, Robert Palmer probably didn't hate the world in the 80s, nor does his music make one want to hate the world in any decade, nor support the hating of the world. It might make you want to wear a suit with big labels, start an all-model rock band, or beat things with a large hammer (or is that Peter Gabriel? I always forget), but hate is not one of its evoked emotions, in my reading. But that's how the music genome flows, and I like Robert Palmer as much as The Cure, Siouxsie Sioux, or Simple Minds, so no complains with this gene jockey.

My parents like Robert Palmer, and they also like Pandora. I think my mom has a station started with Jack Johnson that she really likes. I'm not as in to Mr. Johnson as she is. I don't think she or my dad would really like the wailing of the Banshees either. But we can all agree on Robert Palmer.

And now finally, through all of those segue-ways, we reach the point of the post. Here is a list of music that my parents and I both really like, and of which I might very well have stolen their LPs (shhh!!!):

Robert Palmer
Peter Gabriel
Steely Dan
Paul Simon
Jimmy Buffett
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
Dire Straits
Stevie Wonder
Earth, Wind, and Fire
Neil Young

and there are more that I will add as I think of them. I think its a pretty good collection of music. Certainly not exhaustive of either of our tastes, but a nice compromise between generations. I think a Venn Diagram could be in order.

PS. Other Pandora stations that I have created and are worth mentioning include:

"In the Beginning, there was... Radio" (dub, down tempo)
"Noise for the End of Times Radio" (apocalyptic post-rock)
"Say Yes Radio" (modern indie folk)

If any sound interesting to you drop a line and I'll send you the link. Its a bit troublesome to post them all, because of the way Pandora works.


American Politics (part 74 of 4958)

Here's today's lesson on American Politics, and why Americans will never be able to understand other people in the world.

The fact is, American's have this cushy view of politics as something not unlike the stock market. It's something everyone "knows" how it works, and therefore, they "know" that it matters the their daily life. But no one really has to know all the details, unless that is your job. Even the Americans who know how it works only know enough about it to make their money off of it. I'm sure we could push this analogy even further until it balances out if we started comparing how much the actually working Capitalist (or the modern day equivalent) really "knows" about work. Not to say that the average labor unionist "knows" much more... but I digress.

In the rest of the world, politics is not something you have a career in, or something that fills a certain proportion of the evening news, or something to have an opinion on when celebrity lifestyles are not giving us that sweet chance to identify with something. Politics is something that happens and you react, because it involves your life.

I received an example of this difference in "politics" today as I walked through Union Square after work. There was this delightful "protest" going on between anti-War and/or anti-Israel protesters and pro-War and/or pro-Israel protesters. It was hard to say who was protesting and who was counter-protesting, because there were only about fifteen people there total. Everyone else was going home from work. Look! I took a picture!

"What protest?" What do you mean, what protest? They have signs... duh! Ok, here:

The Pro-Israel people are in blue, the Not-Pro-Israel (because who could be against Israel???) are in green. Everybody else is not-giving-a-shit and walking right on by, like people do. The three cops were being harangued by one side and then the other, but I'm pretty sure they didn't give a shit either. That's really everyone who was there. A perfect representation of American Politics. Two focus groups, about equal in size, standing politely on either side of the fence... err, sidewalk, sorry, and holding signs that are just about as empty of meaning as they are full of slogan. And look! Two of them are even having a polite, earnest exchange of ideas in the foreground, after which the one with the more logical and sound argument will probably have convinced the other that their side is right. Yay!

On the other hand, let's look at Palestine, the place of the issue that these fine citizens are being oh-so-opinionated about. What do you know, but they have protests there too! Lets look!

Hmm. That doesn't look much like the totally sweet "Democracy" that we have in this country. What went wrong there?

Well, since you asked so nice, I'll let you in on a secret. In a country were bureaucracy is the rule, and we have set up complicated systems to prevent us ever having to give a shit about anything important, there is no actually rule of the people. The system rules itself, because we designed it to, and we spend an awful load of money every year (its called taxes) to make sure we will never have to trouble our pretty little heads with anything more complicated than a cardboard sign. On the other hand, where people's lives are actually threatened, the people actually do rule. And when the people rule, they rule violently, because that's what people are. There is nothing democratic about the rule of the demos. Here in America, we export violence, just like we now export our paperwork and customer service. That's why we have no politics. We only have the shadow of politics.

I'd ask how Americans can sleep at night, but I know how. With the help of Ambien and other sleep-aids, they sleep quite nicely. It's in places where the tear gas wafts into your house at night because the police are storming houses in your neighborhood at 3AM that it becomes difficult to sleep...

The Day the Music Died

My iPod reached its limit, and the suicide gene took over. The real beauty of the iDesign is that they are made to be disposable, dying a few months after the warranty runs out. And coincidentally, the Apple Care plan for my iShuffle cost as much as a new one, so obviously I didn't purchase it. Luckily there is still internet radio, or work would be an abyss of sorrow (Garagepunk.com, is the current wavelength).

Now that I have been consuming mp3s on my commute for over a year, my addiction is in full bloom. I have to decide what to do; shall I just get another fix with a small, 512MB player, or shall I upgrade my addiction to a mainline full-strength 60Gig Pod(or equivalent)? As my favorite line from Basketball Diaries goes, "if you're going to snort it you might as well smoke it, and if you're going to smoke it you might as well shoot it." And thus Leonardo DiCaprio becomes a junkie, and I drop $300 to the Apple Corp.?

Another beef of mine, though not directly related, is with RapidShare. (Since I hate them I'm not going to link to them.) This website stores large files and gives you a link to download them, and it and similar sites are used by mp3 blogs and the like to host the files. They make their money by selling subscriptions to get premium accounts for faster downloads, multiple downloads, etc. So of course they have to have some means to make the free downloading limited, to convince you to buy the subscription. But RapidShare's system is so difficult, often I fail to make the download connect before the site believes I have "exceeded my download limit", and so I have to sit in from of the computer for multiple hours before I actually get the file. I call bullshit. There are plenty of other sites that do the similar business, but without all the crap. I don't know why mp3 blogs choose RapidShare. Maybe they offer some incentive on the uploading end. But for me, who just wants to download the music, they suck.


I don't want to use your love

I just finished my thesis, and so I am kicking back, at 1am, with a six pack of tall boy Steel Reserve, my favorite malt liquor, purchased from our very own Harlem Up! 24 Hour Deli. The song of the hour, courtesy of my good friend Deejay Gonzo, whose mix, Dance Party for Dummies Vol. 1 got me through the thesis process, is The Outfield - I Don't Want to Lose Your Love Tonight. I'm going to give you the song, but you should download the mix. It's very swell, and it kept me amped during the two all-nighters that went down this past week. Check him out.

But still: I just want to use your love, I don't want to lose your love.

The Outfield - I D...

70 pages full of pizza

Because my graduate school department (which shall heretofore go unnamed) decided to screw me over, I have had to compose my entire Master's Thesis in one week. It is a good thing that I was already ahead of schedule before the eliminated the schedule, otherwise I would be dead in the street right now, and not sitting on top of 70+ pages on Freud, Derrida, Kristeva, and Marx.

This is my excuse for the scanty posts of late. Next week I should be back at work, which means back on the internet, which means back on the blog. Right now I'm taking time out from my last few pages to steal NYU's internet at the catalog terminal. They won't give me a wireless logon, the bastards! Luckily I can steal this at 230am. I would have earlier, but the place was swamped with NYU jerks instant messaging. I just keep standing up to make sure no one's stealing my laptop from the carrol across the room. The laptop is expensive, sure, but if I lost the thesis now, I would have to light the place on fire. And not that metaphorical, just-talk-about-it fire, the real kind. The kind that burns libraries down with its vengeful anger.

So that's it for now. Maybe, depending how batty I get, there will be another post later tonight. Tell you what: at least I'll update the blog quote to something appropriately philosophical. That Bowie quote has had its day. Move over!

Oh, one other discovery. Drinking soda with pizza will taste like a pizza party, no matter how old I am.


Adam Hates the World Yet Again Today

People keep tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "here, your jacket was on the ground." Goddammit, I know it was on the ground! I threw it there! It annoys me to have a bulky jacket on the back of my chair, so I put it on the ground next to my backpack so I can sit. The other day in the bar 6 people in the span of 5 minutes picked up my jacket and handed it to me, and then I threw it back on the floor. They all act like they are doing me such a favor too, like they made my day by saving my dingy thrift store jacket from "the floor". Jerks. Next time I get a tap on the shoulder and turn around in my chair to see someone holding my coat, I'm going to start screaming, "Hey! Why are you trying to steal my jacket! That's my good jacket! Give me back my jacket!"

Jacket is a stupid word, by the way.

Logic: wooo!

This statement is true.
This statement is false.

Between these two, logic is born, and logic dies. While it is easy to simply proscribe the second statement, by saying that it is "illogical", the fact is that the basis by which the first statement is "logical" shows logic to be a fallacy.

Both statements have meaning. The meaning of the first statement proves logic by completeing the circle. The meaning of the second disproves it by breaking it. If you can say that the first statement, in that it is a meaningful statement, has a logical meaning, then you must admit that the second statement has a meaning, despite the fact that it is illogical. Paradox is still meaningful.

Therefore logic is merely a game, and meaning is completely independent of logic. Logic is the same as saying: "The first rule of the game is that there are rules and that they are meaningfully true, including this one." Sure, why not? But you haven't proved the existence of meaning, you have only utilized it.

The greatest part is, that all of the above would be pretty much meaningless if it was not logical.

(Derrida is pretty sweet.)



Home with a cold today. Right now it's in the sore throat stage, I'm sure we'll be well on to the stuffiness head cold stage tomorrow. I went out this morning and bought four cans of soup, a loaf of bread, a stack of american cheese, a stick of margarine, and two gallons of orange juice with pulp. Gotta have pulp. There are alot of people who are anti-pulp, but in my opinion, they might as well drink Tang. The pulp is part of the orange, without it you might as well be drinking water without the hydrogen. A woman at the grocery store with no teeth asked me if I am vegetarian (I think she asked because I had bought the two kinds of soup available at the grocery store that didn't have ground beef in them) and then suggested I go to Whole Foods because they have a better selection. I agreed, but said that Whole Foods was too far away.

Now it is soup and grilled cheese time. Unfortunately, TNT seems to be on the blink, so I cannot watch Law & Order, which was my one chance for a miraculous cure. Also unfortunately, I cannot get either the Campell's or the Progressive soup commercials out of my head, and this makes me want to put my forehead in the frying pan.

I had a good topic for a post today, but I seem to have forgotten it in all this excitement. Maybe I'll remember later while I'm doing my taxes.

Until then, here is a link to a creepy but very entertaining article by Sarah Aswell, who went to my college. She is a good writer. The article gives me a post-modern mystical "ghost in the machine" feeling about the internet, similar to some of Chuck Palahniuk's better stuff. But I hate Palahniuk. Lately, I've been hating every writer that I like that is successful because I am not.


My Sugar

Last night, the woman that I love threw my giant Pixy Stix out of the window of a cab on the West Side highway, because I'm "getting fat" and "I deserved it for hurting her hand" with said tube of colored sugar. She is the greatest. Seriously.

Other great things about her:

-She is artistic.
-She likes hot chocolate.
-If she ever converts to Judaism, it won't be because of me, it will be because she wants to do it.
-She dances to pop songs with this silly little dance, so cute that it melts me.
-She might be getting her own blog soon, that I'm not allowed to read or link to, because it will be secret.
-She also has secret identities.
-Other than hot chocolate, I know that she likes cupcakes, popsicles, waffles, and chicken marsala.
-She punches me in her sleep if she dreams about me being fresh.
-I think she's still sleeping in my bed right now, even though I am at work.
-She complained that I never write about her in my blog.

Anyway, sorry, this post is lame, but it's not for you.
We'll be back to our regularly scheduled blog later.


Genes, Siblings, Secret Lovin'

This morning my alarm woke me with news- big news! Well, it always does this; around the time I get up WNYC is playing BBC World Service. The news always sounds much bigger when delivered with a British accent.

But the story this morning was about an incestuous couple in Germany. The brother/sister kind of incest. They were seperated at birth, were reunited, and now have children. Sorry that I can't find the report online to link to it, and the details are a bit hazy as I was waking up at the time.

But I wanted to post more generally on the topic of incest, genetics, and morality. It seems that they are all strangely linked in the minds of some genetic-moralists, whose opinion forms the majority opinion of our society.

Firstly, say what you want about child/parent incest. It seems obvious to me that quality sexual relationship could not really form with the child/parent relationship in the way, and if it did, then there would obviously be too much of a power relationship overshadowing the sex. Maybe if in our society parent/child relationships were different, then there could be a possibility of a sexual relationship, but as it is, it strikes me as a bad thing for the same reason that there are statutory rape laws. Not because a child can't make decisions you understand, but because between an adult and a child there are ulterior power relationships that would necessarily interfere. Similarly, why sex between a prisoner and a guard is rape by statute: even if they somehow did find "true love" in each other, the power relationship would interfere to an extent that the sexual relationship would become a problem to the well-being of both, in that they are who they are.

But as far as sibling incest goes, the fact that it is prohibited by statute seems to me to be totally bizarre. The traditional moral argument aside, (while bother to argue against a textual moral argument? "but it says this...") the issue is preventing the creation of genetic "monsters". Abominations. Now, let's bracket for the moment the fact that this culture over-privileges genetics as moral determination (the similarity between Darwinism and Creationism is a topic for another post). The genetic fact is that the reason that interbreeding between siblings is "bad" is because there is an increased chance of occurences of double recessive traits. Now, agreeing that our hypothetical incestuous couple wants to and does spawn children, the justification for the law is to "ensure a better a chance of Darwinian fitness".

WTF? Are sibling incest laws one fancy Darwinian dance-step away from eugenics? Since when was it the place of the state to be the life guard of the gene pool? Why don't we then make laws prohibiting people with poor genotypes or genetic disorders from breeding? Or restrict breeders from breeding with people who may be at risk for harboring similar recessive traits? There are tons of people walking around with disabilities, disorders, and just plain dislikable distinctions, but we don't make laws against them, because it is fascist, and because that is part of the beauty of the human species and the risk of life and breeding. I really can't believe that genetic-moralists can speak out of both sides of their mouth like that, glorifying "natural selection" and then trying to make "natural attractions" illegal. Who is playing "prime mover" now?

It seems simple to me; if we are going to let people make their own breeding choices, given that they decide to do so at all (a strange decision in itself) then we have to let them make their own choices, for good or for bad. If they decide to consult with a doctor, then the doctor should tell them whatever s/he wants to tell them about their possible offspring. But the state should stay out of it.

As far as the sex, proscribing the sex just because it might make a child with epilepsy is ridiculous. Any limits on breeding should be made universally, otherwise it strays into the above territory. And without the genetic-moral argument, there is no argument whatsoever, because sexual preference has been protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Due process clause, jerk. And as for marriage between siblings (or other taboo couples for that matter), I think there is a slightly different but related argument, that yet draws the opposite conclusion. I'm going to write about that soon though, so I'll hold off for now (lucky you!).

The absolute weirdest part is, the genetic-moralists have gone so far as to produce a diagnosis of sibling incest. They call it "genetic sexual attraction". I think using Foucault could develop a more nuanced argument here, but I'll just cut it short by saying that the genetic-moralists really think they have it all down, don't they? When they can classify something, they own it, theory-wise. The medical discourse maintains control, because it can diagnose a sexual relationship according to theory, and thusly, can maintain juridico-discursive control over its domain. You see, incestuous siblings don't "really" have a relationship, the only "suffer" a pathology of GSA. How convenient. Remember, homosexuality was in the DSM until 1973.


Internet Breadcrumbs

Soooo... I'm trying out this new Firefox extension called Trailfire. The way it work, I think, is that you leave notes on websites that you can link to in a "trail". I like trails. Reminds me of pathways. Pathways remind me of children's stories. Those remind me of sleepytime. That reminds me of sleeping. Sleeping reminds me of happy. Happy reminds me of crying...

So sometimes pathways don't lead anywhere, or only to bad places. But here is a pathway that leads you hopping, skipping, and jumping across the cold, dark, deadly waters of the internet. It's a guided tour... of me. Yep. Rather than just having you Google my name, I can lead you through it. We'll see if it works.

It's just a practice, and not very interesting, it's just pretty much every interesting searchable mention of my name online.

Post-Apocalyptic Subway Disco

Last night I was riding a nearly empty 3 train uptown back to Harlem, and listening to Sally Shapiro's "I'll Be by Your Side" on my headphones. As the train goes through the tunnel underneath Central Park passing from 96th Street to Central Park North, it slows down a bit and heads into a stretch with lots of lights in the tunnel in close proximity to the train, because the tunnel is so narrow. Sitting at the end of the car (coincidentally at the end of the train), I saw a peculiar phenomenon. As the lights from the tunnel passed down the train through the windows, their glare reflected in the chrome hand-hold bars in the center of the car. The motion of the reflection spun the lights around the round poles, and combined with the stuttering produced by the windows, bathed the empty car in a strobe-light disco ball effect.

At that point, the ethereal warmness of Sally Shapiro's synths instilled in me a vision of some sort of cyborg vigilante riding on top of an abandoned train across a post-apocalyptic city-scape plain in some alternative future, his existential tears running into sparks as they flow down his face in the poisoned wind. Think Mad Max/Blade Runner/Robocop, but a club remix rather than Vangelis' original Blade Runner soundtrack. I had to listen to the song three times in a row.

Yeah, I like the subway. People talk shit about how everyone in the city has headphones on, but sometimes the mundane can be quite beautiful if it is enhanced with the right soundtrack. And how else would I be inspired with ideas for depressimistic sci-fi short stories? Go ahead, you tell me how. That's what I thought. Cyborgs will always be by my side.


Have you heard about this "Brute Press?"

So through certain "connections" I have been made aware of the launching of a new independent press out of New York City. They are called Brute Press, and publish small works and compilations of cutting-edge literature and art. They just released their first publication, appropriately titled "A".

A short story of mine and a couple of (shitty, but apparently worthy for publication) poems are published in it, but regardless of that, you should check them out, tell your friends, or just show them a little love. It's hard to be in the print business in this digital age, they deserve some props. I've seen the issue, and its actually pretty cool, and only costs $2, including postage. If you invested in it, you wouldn't be disappointed. I mean, hey, where can you get quality literature these days for only two bucks?

Check out their blog and their MySpace.


Posh Posh By Gosh

Today, wonder of wonders, I bought a black tie. I have wanted a straight black tie for a long time, and today I finally bought one for $19.00 at a vintage store in the west willage. It is fairly long, as I have a fat neck and a long torso. Appropriately, I was wearing a collared shirt at the time, so I was able to wear the tie home. I bet they don't often have people say, "oh, I'll just wear that tie, no need to bag it." I'm glad I could expand their viewpoints.

Who wears black ties? Counter-intuitively, this is not a tie that I could actually wear to a "black-tie" event, because "black-tie" means a tuxedo and bow tie, while my recent acquisition is a neck tie. And, although the phrase "black tie" draws visions of formality, pomp, and circumstance, I feel that most people who would find themselves in the position of being required by their situation to wear a black neck tie would be generally working class. I'm thinking specifically of waiters, livery car drivers, salesmen with uniforms, security guards, and perhaps copy-machine repair persons. A black neck tie is fairly standard, non-distracting, and resistant to the travails of professions that might stain a tie showing color.

The next question for me is, will this tie match my suit? I have a very nice suit purchased from a Salvation Army. You may question the qualifier "nice" when you see that I purchased it in a thrift store, but trust me, it is actually quite dapper. It cost me $25.00. The difficult is, the suit is a dark gray. Will the black tie overshadow the gray suit? Only a mirror and a well-lit room will tell. Perhaps now I will be in the market for a black suit. I would like a black linen suit. My current suit is fairly heavy, and it would nice to have a summer suit of light material through which a gentle breeze may blow to cool my sweating skin. I'm kind of a sweaty guy, actually. Be assured, I will keep you abreast of my suit search.

I'm also looking for a snappy pair of sneakers, a new pair of casual pants, and a jacket of certain narrow specifications.


Ask the Interdome!

People spend an awful lot of time concerning themselves with "contexts". They complain about past quotes being taken out of context, whether or not present facts are considered in context, and about the proper context for actions or words in the future.

I say, forget the context! Let's go right to the text on this one! We're going to learn more if we just experience a shit-load of text than if we spend our time making sure it all fits together. Let the word-vomit begin, and ask the Interdome: "are we machines?"

"...then the question of whether or not we are machines would simply be the question of whether or not we are man-made (i.e., "artifacts"), which we clearly aren't (so far), but so what?"

"What I like is that we are machines OR devices. That latter word takes us even further out of the picture as actual people."

"...I want to stress here that I claim only that humans are composed of mechanical parts, not that we ARE machines."

"You know, I as a sort of strong scientist think that we are machines."

"If we are machines, then, we cannot say that God reveals his presence to us, and any awareness we have of God's presence must be explained in some other way."

"Logically, there are two possibilities: diminish our sense of self-worth because we discover we are machines, or raise our appreciation of the power of machines because we discover we are machines."

"We are machines, as are our spouses, our children, and our dogs..."

"They think we are machines while we work as hard as we can. "

"Apparently, we are conditioned to believe that we are machines, that our actions are determined by the stimuli we receive and by our prior conditioning."

"Of course, we do not experience ourselves as machines, but I told myself that we are machines under a double curse – the illusion of being more than machines and the desire for the illusion to be true. "

But given what we now know about how the world works there isn't any question that we are machines: if by "machine" we mean a physical system capable of performing certain functions, then it is obvious that we are biological machines."

"We are machines that are constructed so as to inform ourselves that we have no purpose and no beauty."

We are machines, like anything else. We are, however, glorious and marvelous machines, the kind of machine that other machines should look up to."

Death or Taxes for the Pusher-man

or: Out, Out, Damn Spots.

Thomas Lauzon, mayor of Barre, VT (pop. 10,000), has suggested giving the death penalty to dealers of crack and heroin, in addition to legalizing marijuana, as a way of re-directing the war on drugs to make it more effective. Or, through his acknowledgement that most legislators will not seriously consider this option, he intends to at least start a new state-wide discussion about the problem.

It's not the first time someone has sparked controversy in order to draw attention to an issue. But I think the way he describes his argument is interesting. I don't believe in the death-penalty (a topic for another conversation) and I believe that marijuana should be legalized (although improbable), but listen (read) this little tid-bit from the honorable mayor:

"People who are dealing crack and dealing heroin have zero social value and should be put to death."

Hello, social cleansing! What if we eliminated everyone that has zero social value? Of course, the mayor probably mis-stated his point. He probably mean that dealers of hard drugs have a negative social value, because they cause drug abuse, like how a murderer has a negative social value because s/he takes out members of society unjustified (unjustified by law... yet another tangent about state-sanctioned killing here...). Still, to qualify one's right to live by their "social value" is an interesting turn for the (proposed) ethics of law.

The arguments for the death penalty are manily punitive. Of course, it is the end all stop to recidivism, but jail without parole is as well, and definitely cheaper. We are left with the general argument that the criminal should be put to death for certain crimes that are brutal enough in nature that they deserve special punitive measures of revenge.

But this is a different argument altogether. Does the mayor mean, that dealers of hard-drugs should be convicted of murder, as he implied in the quote, "If you put a gun to someone's head, it's murder. How is this so different?" Or, does he mean that people who contribute to an act of zero social value and have no other redeeming qualities should be put to death? If he was in favor of charging with murder the dealers who supply drugs to overdose victims and then punishing them according to the already standing death penalty statutes, I think we could assume the former;this defense of state-sanctioned killing would then be no different than the punitive arguments already in place. However, I think that what the mayor means is that anyone who deals hard-drugs should be put to death.

Now, the argument about killing as retribution for someone who kills certainly has its own implications for a deconstruction of our moral values. Why do we feel that by snuffing one more life we somehow cancel the wrong that was done? Or furthermore, (for moralist opponents of the death penalty) how does placing value on each and every single life end the taking of life at all? Strange as it may seem to the moralists, having a personal morality does not prevent others from not having morality at all. Maybe we need to think more about what exactly we value about life, and then use that to think about how to keep people alive. Who wants to have a war? Anyone?

The "social value" argument that the mayor is introducing (perhaps unwittingly) pushes the idea that those that are not actively contributing to society should be removed from it, and not just exiled, but eliminated. If dealers of hard-drugs are the first on the list, who is next? Pornography dealers? Day-time television hosts? Bloggers?

Maybe I'm joking, but that list draws attention to another point; what other normative "categories" overlap with "social value"? I'll let you think about that one.

Who are we really removing from society? Isn't it inappropriate for anyone to decide who gets to live and die in society? Isn't that just imposing a moral value on life that eventually might be made to be paid, the forcing of which the murderer is being punished for in the beginning? Isn't this why we have a justice system, to resist the arbitrary inforcement of beliefs? Say what you want about the state's own institutional belief in right or wrong (and again we return to legalization of drugs...), but at least it has standards of what can make a person guilty of what crime.

This is not a Mp3 Blog

I'm not in the business of posting music, but if I'm digging something I might just re-post a link to it. And so, since it made my morning:

Electro/Techno/Dance listeners: Jam out at work right now with this XLR8R dance mix (DJ Star Eyes). You'll like it, trust me. My morning was so slow, but 45 on the train with this and I was back on top of my game, and ready to spreadsheet. Its generally a pretty good podcast, but this one has some classic tracks. The previous link gets you directly to the cast in question, the entire feed is here.

ps. Does anyone know what the track that samples the Superman theme about an hour in is?