Saturday, July 30, 2005

Imaginary Books (3)

Here you go:

A Study of Depressive Symptoms among Men Living without Pretty Girls

Rock Bottom

If you loved Requiem for a Dream, this a book for you. In chapter one, the author shares what sounds like "rock bottom": searching his wrecked body for a vein, he breaks his glass syringe, spilling his precious fix on the cement floor of the warehouse he's made a haven of; he finds himself frantically licking up glass shards and rat feces. And it gets better. There are nineteen chapters.

Tristan Sandy

The Mystery of Hatred

The Science of Ridicule and Belittlement

Eating for Six

I was born in the Court of the King of the Four Winds: An Autobiography

"I was born, the child of a scribe and slave girl in the court of the King of the Four Winds, Shar-Kali-Shari," runs the opening sentence. As we all know, Shar-Kali-Shari was the last dynamic ruler of the Akkadian empire. That was the first of all empires. The author has been around for a while, and he has nothing kind to say about empire building.

Very Old Things

A Photo-catalogue of Books Inscribed on Human Skin

My favorite is the guy who has Isaiah tattooed on his body in 4 point type.

How to Avoid Traveling with a Salmon


In the comments to my previous post, Cary presented a neat idea: turn this imaginary books thing into an installation of some sort. Well, I like that idea (probably because I'm a pompous ass), but it will require thousands of titles. If you've got any special imaginary books you'd like to share, you can send them to me, either in the comments here or at the following email address: chill807 (at) juno (dot) com. (Please include in the subject line "Imaginary Books.") If the titles you send are articles from imaginary magazines or journals, you must send those titles as well. I will see to cataloging them according the Dewey Decimal System and everything, then we'll see about getting us a place. Hit me!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Almost an apologetic

The name of Christ has caused more persecutions, wars, and miseries than any other name has caused.
John E. Remsburg- [Author] {1910}

Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God holds others in contempt.
[Robert Ingersoll, "Some Reasons Why"]

Where horrendous evils are concerned, not only do we not know God's actual reason for permitting them; we cannot even conceive of any plausible candidate sort of reason consistent with worthwhile lives for human participants in them.
Marilyn McCord Adams, "Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God"

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
[John Morley]

Where knowledge ends, religion begins.
Benjamin Disraeli

Where the cross has been planted only superstitions have grown.
[Lemuel K. Washburn, Is The Bible Worth Reading And Other Essays]

Whenever I think of how religion started, I picture some frustrated old man making out a list of all the ways he could gain power, until he finally came up with the great solution of constant fear and guilt, then he leaped up and started planning a new wardrobe.
[Steve Blake]


Lately, I've been reading a lot of blogs (an awful lot blogs, and I should be doing something much more mathy), basically all of the liberal or progressive in a European sort of way. For the most part, I agree with almost all of the concrete policy positions the author propound (with some exceptions), even if I don't always think terribly highly of their analyses (or their timbre). Religious life in the left-blogosphere is largely agnostic, and there are a great many vocal atheists. Now, I think I once expressed here that I accept atheism as a religion--and I stand by that--but I have to gripe some about the barrage of indictments laid on Christianity. The quotes given above outline a few of the more common accusations. I have no reason to deny that many, many awful crimes were and are perpetrated in the name of the Cross, and I can't deny that the Church has been friendly to free thought.

Obviously, to claim that humanity, or Europe, say, would have been a kinder, gentler place without Christianity is a ridiculous counterfactual. On the other hand, it's also a counterfactual to suppose that humanity without Christianity would have been just as cruel and bloodthirsty. My own sense of it (which I offer without proof) is that all those crimes of Christianity are human crimes, born of the human organism and its pathologies. Christians are judgmental because people are judgmental. Christians are violent because people are violent. Christians are hypocrites because people are hypocrites. Without Christianity, we would find another excuse, and presumably, we would gnash our teeth about that excuse. I'm not sure I believe that it's terribly productive to fling oneself against an excuse if one wants to root out those evils--it's easy enough to find a new excuse. In fact, many of the attackers have found their excuse. Maybe I have, too.


Now, I want to talk about something completely different: I've read some large number of science fiction stories in my life, and some large number of those stories involved a powerful ancient race of beings, sometimes wise and gentle, sometimes not, compared to whom humanity is a child race--the extremes of our technology savagely primitive by comparison, the extent of our intelligence equally primitive. There have been quite a few New Age groups and cults founded on the notion of wise, ancient aliens who will soon come to help us on our way. Today, I found this picture. Apparently, it is a young solar system, something like 5% of the age of our own. I've decided that I like the idea that we will the ancient wise aliens someday, and that we might be the first ones. When we teach the younger ones from the wisdom born of all our pain, we can hope that no other species will have to bare it. That sounds like the White Man's Burden. I'll have to keep thinking about it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Public Service Announcement

You know... for television.

On the left, an Olympic high-jumper prepares to sprint towards the bar.
On the right, a kitty-cat, eyeing the edge of the dinner table.

The high-jumper, from behind. A dotted white line skitters onto the screen so that we can see just how high the bar is compared to the athlete.

The kitty-cat. Again, a white line demonstrates the height of the table edge above the cat's head. Cat and man have the same distance to jump, relative their heights.

The athlete makes his run, muscles straining, eyes focused like a warrior's. His pounding steps. Arching dangerously over the bar.

The kitty-cat hops up on the table, jumping from a stationary position, showing no particular exertion. As the kitty examines the odds and ends on the table, the tagline appears:

You call yourself an athlete?

I'm convinced that human beings, by and large, do not understand that we are not a physically impressive species, and moreover, the world would be a better place if we did. Among other things, I think this explains why people think that a chimpanzee won't beat the living crap out of you if you wrestle with it, or that somehow you could defeat a mountain lion (they don't look so big... ) One could probably make a connection between our society's mania for athletic games--instead of, say, speed chess--and this bizarre misconception that successful athletes are physically extraordinary. Thy're not. Did you know that a female gorilla can rip your arm off your body? Can Shaq? No. I'd like to make a connection between this and our species' love of violence, but that's harder. In America in particular, we put a ridiculous emphasis on athletic prowess in schools, at the expense of education. Maybe if people understood that being fast and strong is not what we're good at, we could move on. Maybe it would be harder to read so much crazytalk into being the the stonger and faster half of feeble species.


[Update: If you're reading this, please, comment. I'd like to know what you think.]

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Here is one of the most important articles ever written.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Business plan

In some other electronic venue which demanded a succinct characterization of the author, I was once said of myself, "I study mathematical logic and theoretical computer science, but I haven't made my peace with not being rich." I've also described myself as a theoretical entrepreneur. Along those lines, I thought I would share one of my most successful imaginary business plan to date: Obsolete Solutions. I can provide devastatingly efficient solutions to problems that have already been solved or have long since been rendered obsolete. For example,

The solar-powered emergency car battery: Driving a car manufactured before, say, 1995, you must have encountered this problem. In the morning, when you were driving to work, it was raining, so you turned your headlights on, like any safe driver, but arriving at work, it was daytime of course, so it didn't occur to you turn your headlights off again. And returning to the parking lot, where your car sits lonely (because you're such a diligent professional, everyone else has gone home long ago), and now impotent, there's no one around to curse you, let alone give you a jump. Do you call AAA? Nah, you go to the trunk to get your solar-charged emergency batter, which you were clever enough to have charged over the weekend, cost-free. Problem solved... as long as you don't fuck it up somehow.

(Actually, I thought this device would be an interesting way to introduce solar-powered devices into the mainstream, as a reasonable technology, as opposed to futuristic pie in the sky. I think that's one of the big difficulties in shifting patterns of energy consumption.)

Reducing the World War I era salient: Next time you're a WWI general faced with an inconvenient bump in your trenchworks, I'm your guy. I can smooth out the line with minimal loss of life, preferably with tanks, but I can do without.

More to come... Big, big money...