Sunday, July 5, 2015

Day 3 Of My "South Park" Hold-Out And Already I Miss --

My South Park embargo.

-- and already I miss Timmy (For those of you unfamiliar with "South Park," Timmy is a little boy who is confined to a wheelchair and for the most part never says anything except "TIMMY!" The only exception I can think of is when he has a pet turkey named Gobbles, and says: "Gobbles." Timmy's relationship with Gobble's is one of the most movingly tender episodes I've ever seen in a dramatic depiction.), Jimmy (a little boy on crutches who, despite a very severe stutter, is determined to make it as a stand-up comedian), Butters, Twitch, "CRIPPLEFIGHT!!!" (Eh, just watch the show.), etc.

I have some serious issues with climate-change deniers. That doesn't mean I disagree with all of them about everything. Although offhand Parker and Stone are the only ones I can think of who aren't complete assholes in every way. Seriously, climate-change deniers tend to be racist, sexist, anti-union and just generally flat-out Republican. Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of "South Park") are none of the above, except climate-change deniers.

Climate change, however, isn't the only issue upon which they're complete douchebags. They're also among that group of Amurrkins who are neither Democrats nor Republicans, which means, since Amurrka does not yet have proportional representation, that they're a good deal worse than useless politically. You know, when I think about this, and Stone saying that he hates conservatives but he hates liberals a lot more, it suddenly makes me miss the show a lot less again. Douchebags who take this sort of political stand in a 2-party system, without lifting a finger for the cause of converting to a multi-party parliamentary system like most modern countries have, resemble agnostics, inasmuch as they think they're smarter than all the rest of us, but they're not. Smug and above-the-fray doesn't mean you're smart, it means you're smug and stupid.

And this -- and, for example, Parker saying that of all the wonderful and absurd religions in the world, none is more absurd to him than atheism (Lack of religion ain't a religion, Trey, and "spirituality" is religion.) -- and some other stuff, makes me wonder if Parker and Stone are hopeless cases, whether there's just no talking to them. While the brilliant parts of their show, on the other hand, make me think that there must be some talking to them. (Enten/eller.) But to be able to talk to them face-to-face whenever anything about "South Park" pisses me off, I'm going to have to be extremely famous. One more very important reason why all of you reading this must praise and link it and this blog everywhere you can and tweet and re-tweet links to them and +1 them and dedicate Facebook groups and billboards to them and always tell everyone -- EVERYONE, not just friends and family and co-workers, but also postal carriers and people waiting with you in lines and waiting rooms and all of those complete strangers on all of those crowded sidewalks all over the world -- that I must win the 2015 Nobel Prize -IN- Literature. It's July. Time is running out. And I'm eloquent. If anybody can make Parker and Stone "come to Jesus," environmentally speaking, face it -- it's me.

Imagine re-edited episodes of "South Park," where the animation stops and we see a live-action 2-shot of Parker and Stone, and they say: "Yeah. We were total douchebags and morons to doubt climate change and mock people for trying to do something about it. They were struggling to save OUR lives too, and the lives of our children, and we mocked them for it. Steven Bollinger was able to cut through the muck of our smug, stubborn stupidity, to allow us to finally see this and other very important things. What a genius. If ever anyone thoroughly deserved a Nobel Prize -- well. Back to the show, but first: be sure to vote Democratic, and to be real watchdogs on Democratic politicians' voting on environmental issues!"

Imagine it -- and then help me win that Nobel. For the sake of the planet. (And so that I can get a platinum Rolex Daytona and other cool stuff.)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Arts & Humanities & Sciences

Some people will tell you that in the Renaissance in Europe, there were some people who were both artists and scientists, and that these glorious individuals were what we now call "Renaissance men." But the truth is even more delicious than that: up until the Renaissance, in Western "civilization," it never even occurred to anyone to separate the arts from the sciences. People thought it was only natural for someone gifted in one area to be gifted in the other. And of course, it only is. Only after the Renaissance did this ugly and unnatural separation and antagonism between the arts and the science begin to grow and fester. I want no part of that split, and I'm hardly the first to reject it.

As long as I can remember I've been artistically-inclined. As a small child, unfortunately, I shared an attitude toward science which was widespread among artists and ranged from indifference to hostility. Then in the 1970's I read Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow, which helped me to several big breakthroughs, mentally. It greatly eased my paranoia, for one thing, by explaining to me what paranoia is: namely, a great over-estimation of one's own importance to others. More than 9 times out of 10 they're not only not out to get you, they rarely give you a thought one way or another.

For another thing, the novel made me interested in science and technology, and refuted my notion that these were in opposition to the arts & humanities. Gravity's Rainbow's author, Thomas Pynchon, had studied engineering physics at Cornell from 1953 to 1955, then dropped out and spent 2 years in the Navy, then returned to Cornell and switched his major to English and for the most part concentrated (for the next 58 years so far) on writing fiction -- fiction which refers to scientific and technical topics as well as to poetry and music and the visual arts and so forth, as if that were the most natural thing in the world.

Which of course it is. Pynchon is not the only one who behaves as if there were no rules against liking both the sciences and the arts. Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso come to mind, each a great admirer of and great influence upon the other. It seems that for nearly 4 decades, ever since first encountering Gravity's Rainbow, I had been living in a state of grace, removed from that stupid, ignorant opposition between art & science of which I had been a part as a child. Somehow managing to not to pay a lot of attention to how many scientists continued to be abysmally ignorant of the arts and how many artists continued to be abysmally ignorant of the sciences.

To be sure, I had noticed for a few years already that there was an entire group of scientists ignorant of the arts & humanities: the New Atheists. But then just very recently it came home to me that there had been an abysmally equivalent counterpart to the New Atheists infesting the humanities departments of many universities for decades before the New Atheists were so called. I'm talking about the postmodernists. And I don't think that many of them have ever been able to get any sort of jobs outside of the humanities departments of universities. (Nota bene, humanities departments are far from entirely Postmodernist and there have always been many academic historians, philosophers and critics who couldn't stand this PoMo crap in the slightest.) The Postmodernists despise what they think is the entire group of scientists, but which is actually only the group of New Atheists -- who should be despised for their ignorance of art and history and philosophy. Conversely, the New Atheists look with contempt at the dopey postmodernists, worthy of contempt with their contempt for science -- except that the New Atheists mistake the postmodernists for the whole of the arts & humanities.

They walk among us to this very day: New Atheists who think that "modern art is a fraud," and Postmodernists who think that all scientists are right-wing reactionaries. If that were not enough, and it certainly would be, it seems that Postmodernists also tend to claim as their own all sorts of perfectly sensible people who would've wanted nothing to do with them, from the Dadaists to Heidegger to the Abstract Expressionists to Borges to Nabokov to Gaddis and, yes, even Pynchon.

So it seems that all we need to do is to get all of the New Atheists together with all of the Postmodernists. (New Atheists very often reject that label, but that's okay, they're still easy enough to spot. On the other hand, only someone who describes him- or herself as a Postmodernist, is a Postmodernist.) Then they can expend all of their energy against one another, and leave the rest of us much more free to accomplish things and hopefully even enjoy life now and then.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Chess Log: 1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘ge7

5-0 blitz, I played White: 1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘ge7 4. d4 exd4 5. ♘xd4 ♘xd4 6. ♕xd4 ♘g6 7. O-O c6 8. ♗c4 d5 9. exd5 cxd5 10. ♖e1 ♗e7 11. ♗b5 ♗d7 12. ♗xd7 ♕xd7 13. ♕xg7 ♖g8 14. ♕f6 O-O-O 15. ♕c3 ♔b8 16. ♗e3 ♘h4 17. ♗f4 ♔a8 18. g3 ♘g6 19. ♗e3 ♘e5? 20. ♗f4? (20. ♕x♘) ♘g6 21. ♕e3 ♘xf4 22. ♕xf4 ♗d6 23. ♕d2 f5 24. ♘c3 f4 25. ♕xd5 fxg3 26. fxg3 h5? 27. ♕xh5 ♖h8 28. ♕d5 ♕h3 29. ♕g2 ♗c5 30. ♔h1 ♕c8 31. ♘a4 ♗d6 32. b3 ♖dg8 33. ♖e3 ♗f4 34. ♖c3! ♕f5 35. ♘c5 ♖g7 36. ♘xb7! ♖xb7 37. ♖e1 ♗c7 38. ♖xc7 ♖b8 39. ♖xb7 ♖xb7 40. ♖e8 1-0 {Black forfeits on time} Black's only move is 40. ... ♕c8, which is answered by 41. ♖x♕ checkmate.

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 is the Ruy Lopez, mentioned in the Goettingen manuscript of 1490, called the Ruy Lopez after the Spanish priest of that name who analyzed the opening in his Libro del Ajedrez (Book of Chess), published in 1561. 3. ... ♘ge7 is the Cozio Defense. MCO-13 says it "is rarely seen in modern play, and then usually in conjunction with ...g6." It may well have been rare among Grandmasters in 1990, when the MCO-13 was published, and for all I know it may have been used sparingly by them since -- it appears just once in Chess Informant 65, from 1995-96, the newest reference work I have on hand -- but there's never been anything unusual about it among my opponents. 4. d4 exd4 5. ♘xd4 ♘xd4 6. ♕xd4 is a secondary line in the MCO-13, and 6. ... ♘g6 took us out of the book. Black blundered on the 19th move by offering me a free Knight, I blundered on my 20th move by not taking it, Black gave away a Pawn on the 26th move and this time I saw the mistake and took the Pawn. I've given myself an exclamation point for my 34th move, attacking black's Queen, and again for my 36th move, sacrificing a Knight in order to pin down one of black's Rooks. After that the win was pretty straightforward, accomplished under slight time pressure: 29 seconds on White's clock and 2:02 on Black's clock after White's 36th move, 14.7 seconds left for White and 1:39 after White's 40th move. Pretty good stuff from White, for patzers on my level. Actually, Black is rated quick a bit above my level, and I've have to call Black's 19th and 26th moves uncharacteristic blunders. White's blunder on the 20th move: not so uncharacteristic, unfortunately.

I'm Not Watching "South Park" Anymore

Who cares? I would imagine maybe 2 or 3 people care. The usual number of people who care about my opinions. If anything, this post might boost "South Park" viewership, because that's the way the world is. I don't think Trey Parker or Matt Stone will lose any sleep because I've decided they're dicks and that watching their show will from now on just remind me about what complete dicks they are.

It became too much for me a couple of nights ago, partway through the episode "Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow," from 2001, in which the kids reunite Terrance and Phillip for the South Park Earth Day Brainwashing Festival. I don't remember when I changed the channel, but it wasn't long after Clyde said, "Ah, excuse me? My Daddy is a geologist and he says there actually isn't any concrete evidence of global warming." Ah, excuse me, Clyde? Your Daddy gets paid to lie by oil companies. I don't think Parker and Stone have that excuse. I could be wrong, but whether they're getting paid off or they own a lot of Exxon and BP or they're actually that dumb, or whether they actually do realize that global warming is real and they do shit like this just to spite Sean Penn DOESN'T REALLY MATTER all that much any more to me.

It's the message of Kurt Vonnegut's novel Mother Night again, the one I've quoted so often in this blog, the one which has become almost a mantra for me: "We are what we pretend to be." In the introduction to Mother Night Vonnegut said he didn't think it was a particularly deep message. I must disagree. It's very deep, and its applications and implications are wide. I did a bit of research for this post, trying to find something concrete about Parker's and/or Stone's views on global warming. A quote, one way or another, "I think global warming is a hoax" or "Of course we know global warming is real and catastrophic, we're just torturing Sean Penn." A massive donation to the Republican Party or the Audubon Society. I found squat. Besides being done with "South Park," I think I'm done with RationalWiki too, which claimed that Parker and Stone are climate change skeptics and offered no evidence for this beyond "South Park." And I'm sorry I ever saw Encyclopedia Dramatica in the course of searching for info on Parker and Stone. Again, it's the we-are-what-pretend-to-be thing: if Encyclpedia Dramatica isn't a neo-Nazi website, it's pretending to be one convincingly enough that it actually is one.

I'm not telling anybody else what TV shows they should watch. Some people can't watch movies with Tom Cruise or John Travolta, because of Scientology. In some cases some of those movies used to be among their favorites, but in the meantime they learned more about Scientology, and not they just can't stand those movies anymore. I have no problem watching movies with Cruise or Travolta in them. Scientology doesn't bother me nearly as much as global warming. To me the main difference between Christianity and Scientology is that Scientology is a lot newer. But if people want to boycott movies with Cruise or Travolta, or keep watching "South Park," that's fine with me. I understand. Sometimes I can separate art from politics, as I do when I read Eliot and Pound and Yeats. I can understand progressives who love Wagner and progressives who can't listen to Wagner. I can separate the art from the politics.

Some of the time I can. But not all of the time. Not with Parker and Stone, not any more. Not with the treatment of environmentalism on "South Park," not with Parker being a Libertarian either, and not with Stone saying stupid shit such as that W and Michael Moore are equally clueless and that Alec Baldwin is even worse.

It would be great if one of them had a big come-to-Jesus moment about the climate, and they started to have a huge bitter public feud over the environment. That would be awesome. "Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow"-in-real-life-level awesome.

I tried really hard to find out that Parker and/or Stone was an anti-vaxxer so that I could pile more contempt upon them in this post, but no luck. I'm not saying they're not anti-vaxxers, I'm not saying that it would surprise me to learn that they're anti-vaxxers. Anti-vax is truly rampant in Amuurkin show biz, probably more widespread per capita than in Amurrkin trailer parks, but I have no evidence to show anti-vax tendencies on the part of either Parker or Stone. At this juncture.

Anyway. Trey, Matt: screw you gazz, I'm goin' home.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Libertarianism, Therefore, Is The Representation Of Property In Government -- "

" -- the right which it demands is the right for money to rule. In this respect libertarianism is the new aristocracy. Its substance is the same as that of the old aristocracy, only its name and slogans have changed. The libertarian money-aristocracy, the worship of mammon, wants to rule in the name of 'freedom' and to repress the powerless, that is: those without property. The old absolutism was at least honest, and ruled in the name of power and said openly: 'l'etat c'est moi!' ['I make the law.'] The libertarian money-aristocracy, on the other hand, formally recognizes the people's rights and says that it wants a government of laws, and that the representation of the people is the ultimate purpose of the state. Nevertheless, it claims to be the law of the people and the people's representative."

("Der Liberalismus ist also die Vertretung des Besitzes in der Herrschaft; das Recht, welches er verlangt, ist die Herrschaft des Geldes. In dieser Beziehung ist der Liberalismus die neue Aristokratie; ihr Inhalt ist derselbe mit der alten Aristokratie, nur ihr Name ist geaendert und ihr Panier. Die liberale Geldaristokratie, der Mammonismus will unter dem Firma der „Freiheit" herrschen und die Machtlosen, d. h. die Besitzlosen unterdruecken; der alte Absolutismus war wenigstens ehrlich, er herrschte auch unter der Devise der Gewalt und sagte offen: l'etat c'est moi! die Volksrechte habe ich. Die liberale Geldaristokratie aber erkennt die Rechte des Volkes, ein Recht des Rechtstaates, an, will nach ihren Worten den wahren Rechtsstaat herstellen, indem sie die Volksvertretung als den ureigentlichen Zweck des Staates hinstellt, sagt aber nichtdestoweinger, dass sie selbst die Volksvertretung, das Recht des Volkes, sei.")

What's that, a manifesto written after the 2007-2008 worldwide financial crisis and the huge bailouts of financial firms? No, it's older than that. 1930's Great Depression socialism? Nope. It was written in 1846 by Ernst Dronke, one of the original Commies, a German who occasionally rubbed shoulders with Karl Marx, and who like Marx spent the last several decades of his life in exile in England. Some of this original Commie stuff really holds up, really stays fresh, unfortunately. Unfortunately, because the goals of people like Dronke and Marx are not much closer to being realized than they were in the 1840's.

Maybe they're at least becoming more comprehensible to more people. In the light of long and ever longer experience of the problems they describe.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hitch and Mother Teresa

A thought-experiment: Imagine that God and Heaven and Hell all exist. (some of you already believe all of that, I know.)

Imagine that Christopher Hitchens -- "Hitch" to many of his friends and admirers -- went to Heaven when he died. Hitch is surprised that Heaven exists, and surprised again that he's being let in. "You guys are good sports," he says to Saint Peter. (Hitch says this because he was an atheist and extremely critical of religion. The subtitle of one of his books is "How Religion Poisons Everything.") Saint Peter smiles, holding open the gate, and corrects Hitch: "Not 'us guys.' just one guys decides who's in. Just the Big Guy."

Hitch is so overcome with emotion that when he tries to speak he cannot. Saint Peter smiles and nods. It's pretty clear to see what Hitch is thinking and feeling. To Hitch's unspoken but obviously-visible statement, Peter replies, "Yeah, you're gonna like the Big Guy. Everybody does."

With the gate closed behind him, Hitch walk on in over the floor of clouds, spotting Jimi Hendrix, and Jean-Paul Sarte -- and there's Abraham Lincoln! And Lincoln recognizes him, and waves! Hitch is very surprised and flattered that Lincoln would take any notice of him --

-- and then he see Mother Teresa and gets very upset.

The reason this is funny, as some of you know, is that Hitch was severely critical of Mother Teresa, portraying not as an angel of mercy but as a sadistic monster who thrived on the suffering of others and did much less to alleviate that suffering than she is widely believed to have done, and much less than anyone in her position could easily have done.

And the reason I wrote out this little thought experiment is that for a very long time I assumed that Hitch's portrait of Mother Teresa (see his book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, published in 1995) was accurate. (Yes, the book's title is a bit egregiously nasty. Well, nasty is a subjective call.) Just very recently, though, it occurred to me that my negative image of Mother Teresa relied entirely on Hitch's say-so, and I reflected that I had been taking the word of the same man who flatly stated that religious poisons everything, which I find to be an utterly absurd oversimplification of the actions of billions of people over the course of tens of thousands of years or more, actions which I cannot characterize as 100% poisonous; and that Hitch is also the same man, and for all I know the only person on Earth, who supported both W's invasion of Iraq in 2002 and Ralph Nader's campaign for the Presidency in 2004; and that he, like most or all of the other leading New Atheists, made many statements about Islam which I find to be beyond the pale -- in short, it occurred to me just very recently that for decades I had been taking the word of a man about Mother Teresa, a man whose word I generally didn't take about most things. We both believe that God was invented by mankind and not that mankind was created by God, but -- now that it occurs to me that he has been the sole authority for my picture of Mother Teresa, so that I wonder whether that picture is accurate -- I can't think of anything else on which we agree.

Well, there's the so-called Hitch's Razor: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." But it's not as if I hadn't already figured that out. Okay, if I tried hard I might find a dozen things upon which Hitch and I agree. But without trying hard at all I can find many more than a dozen things he wrote or said which I find to be perfectly absurd.

And so I find myself compelled to wonder: is there anything at all to Hitch's version of Mother Teresa's care for the poor and sick, which seems like it was a terrible misfortune for those poor and sick people? (He also described Bill Clinton as a monster. Add that to the list of his opinions I find to be absurd.)

I know there are many of you who assume that Mother Teresa was a monster, as I did until -- well, until just a few days ago, actually. Maybe she was. I don't actually know. But for those of you who assume so, I have only one question -- do you have any evidence for this view other than what Hitch said and wrote?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Someone Suggested That We "Ban The Cross"

The more I think about that rallying cry, "Let's ban the cross!" the more aggravated I get.

Unless the dude was just satirizing things like "Let's ban burkas," in which case, good one, he got me! Or if he means that crucifixion should be banned. I'm down with that, because crucifixion is a particularly cruel method of execution. But I don't think that's what he means.

I'm afraid this guy really meant it, but what exactly does he have in mind -- confiscating things, smashing them up because they don't coincide with his world view? I'm assuming that this, unfortunately, isn't a joke. New Atheists, not all of them, but a few of the more excitable ones, do say things like this now and then. When the Taliban or ISIS actually do things like that, they're first in line to denounce it, but they rarely if ever seem to see how much their words have in common with some of the deeds they denounce.

And they're also first in line, whenever Islamist extremist make headlines, to demand things like "banning Islam," which of course is about as stupid as trying to "ban the cross."

Are we talking about crosses on government property, or everywhere? I assume the crosses on rosaries would be included -- how many millions of those crosses are there? Plus all the non-rosary crucifixes on necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc.

does this maniac want to destroy only 3-D crosses, or is he also going after depictions of crosses in paintings, and in books about art which have reproductions of those paintings?

I can't imagine that this guy has thought this through.

It's clear that I'm against the suggestion of banning the cross, right? I think it's a completely cuckoo-bananas idea. And even most New Atheists, I believe, would not go along with it.

Well -- maybe most of them would. It's not as if they ever do anything practical or meaningful, in their capacities as New Atheists.

There are pictures of crosses on this blog, does this bozo want to come after my blog? You know what, there's a picture of a cross in one of his online avatars as well. I wonder whether he'd make an exception for satirical and/or obscene or scatological anti-religious pictures. If not, he'd not only have to destroy his own avatar somehow, he'd have to go after a lot of images made by and for other New Atheists.

When someone suggests destroying every copy of the Koran, New Atheists don't generally get upset and say Sit down and shut up you idiot. As a matter a fact, although, obviously, they're incapable of destroying every Koran, they have destroyed a few, and acted very proud of themselves, like they think they accomplished something. At least one of the leaders of New Atheism, PZ Myers, piled garbage and excrement onto a copy of the Koran and took pictures of it and put them on the Internet.

Often New Atheists claim that they're against all religions equally, and that may actually be true in some cases. Often they'll come right out and say that they're more against Islam than any other religion. Typically, they'll add that Islamophobia doesn't exist.

And, they often look at public opinion polls saying so-and-so-many percent of Amurrkins would never vote for an atheist for President, and they wonder why. The atheists who are currently most famous for being atheists are fanatically, stupidly Islamophobic, and generally crude and clueless on other religions too. They don't go around demanding that the cross be banned, but they're not that far from such stupid public statements either. They've bred the subculture where a call to ban the cross generates hardly a batted eye or a Hey what do you mean you moron. They don't denounce stupid anti-religious statements, they make constant excuses for them. And they are, for worse, for much worse, currently the public face of atheism. Vote for Myers or Sam Harris for President? Neither one could get elected dog-catcher of Portland. If either of them ran against a jihadist for POTUS, the jihadist's chances would be good.

Atheists who aren't idiots need to stand up to the idiots. For our own good. Having the answer to one question in common with them isn't enough to overlook their stupid, hare-filled fanaticism.