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Monthly Archives: April 2009

This Saturday at the Triple Rock Social Club, with a sick band. Cool.


If you can’t prove causation, you can go for correlation. If you can’t prove correlation, well, you can always lie.

Courtesy of the recession, one might assume.


If you liked Auto-Tune the News, here are the debates set to song and dance.

If the Olson clan keeps at it, I see big things in their future.

I’ve heard some people chattering about some documentary on typographic design. Now they recognize that American Apparel uses Helvetica a lot. Never mind them. A little knowledge can be an annoying thing.

Here’s a cool display of important fonts. Not a perfect ranking, though. I have no idea why Caslon is three spots behind Times.

Thank you


There are 390,000 self-identified followers of the Jedi faith in Britain, according to the new census. Setting aside the question of what an army of British Jedi means for international security, also setting aside the question of what a truly practicing Jedi would look/act like, and setting aside the question of whether or not Jedis are a little bit fascist, let’s focus on this: what’s the difference between a fake religion and a real one?

First, the difference between a cult and a fake religion: not all fake religions are cults. It’s the difference between the Jedi and the Heaven’s Gate crowd. A cult might be a fake religion, though. Or it could be a young religion that doesn’t have an evolutionarily sustainable strategy. Like having all your members kill themselves every time a comet passes near Earth.

One way to separate the Jedis and the Scientologists from the Christians and the Muslims would to require religious sources to be separate from science fiction literature. If a danger of young religions/cults (they’re generally indistinguishable at the beginning, which is not to say they’re the same thing) is that they are marketing schemes concocted by charlatans to make a lot of money, then that criticism is particularly potent when the religious founder has established herself as a talented storyteller and marketer.

This criticism is different from Hume’s attack on religious belief, which was that the likelihood of a mistaken perception or a lie is always greater than that of a miracle (defined as breaking the laws of nature, which have been tested by centuries of human experience and experiment). I’m afraid that Hume’s argument boils down to: miracles are inordinately unlikely, and it’s not good policy to believe that inordinately unlikely things are true. I have problems with the mechanics of this argument and its implications. The talented storyteller/marketer criticism focuses more on the problem of being used instead of the problem of believing a false proposition.

Let’s take a Wittgensteinian tour of religious propositions just to show why I would focuse on used-ness rather than truth. First off, lots of religious language isn’t propositional, it’s imperative. Peace be with you. God bless you. Love your neighbor. Such sentences are meant to influence lives, not to describe the world, and so they don’t have truth values. Of the relatively few religious claims, like Christ is risen, Jesus loves you, We’re all God’s children, or God set the universe in motion, some look like historical claims, but I believe that, properly understood, they are actually extra-scientific. Like expressing views on the origins on the universe, or moral attitudes. Areas where science has no methods for generating truth.

This isn’t to say that religion and religious language are always properly understood by believers. People who claim that the earth is really 6,000 years old or that Jesus rode dinosaurs are offering claims that land squarely in the jurisdiction of science/history, and claims that happen to be contrary to all kinds of evidence. That is an example of religion overstepping its bounds. But when religion is within its bounds, discussing human dignity and the good life, judgment, and c., there’s no direct way for science to contradict the statements, because they’re more generating and sustaining attitudes than describing states of affairs. And then all’s right in heaven and on earth.

… while appearing humane.

What really gets me is the misty-eyed face that Noonan puts on (3:07) when she says “sometimes in life you want to just keep walking,” like her whole life has been spent cutting this gem of folksy wisdom. Like ignoring war crimes is the sagest, lovingest idea she’s ever had. She says she feels bad that a “great nation” like the US has put out these papers, but doesn’t realize that being morally great is in contradiction with torturing people and then lying about it. She acts like a kind, senile, Nazi grandmother.

As for Will, it makes me cringe (and he must be cringing, inside) when he espouses the relativist line, “I don’t think that, and you don’t think that, but these are intelligent people,” as if he really thinks that all that it takes for a theory to be true is for people to believe it. Come on, George. I’ll laugh good-naturedly when you display a comic disconnect with American fashion sense, but take it from me: you don’t wear postmodernism well.


I think it’s ridiculous how much more appropriate Noonan’s comments and composure would have been for Clinton’s impeachment process. When I think of things in life that “need to be mysterious,” sexual relationships of public figures fit in that category much better than rampant lawlessness of elected officials.

Yglesias says: don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Who wants another Civil War?

I’ve heard of generation gaps, but there are like 8 of them between me and George F. “Bow-Tie” Will. An exerpt from his latest op-ed:

Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults (“Seinfeld,” “Two and a Half Men”) and cartoons for adults (“King of the Hill”). Seventy-five percent of American “gamers” — people who play video games — are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote.

He’s getting frumpy about Seinfeld and video games, man; nobody tell him about that rap music or he’ll freak.

But seriously, I think he’s wrong. I think if he could spit out a much more convincing (and relevant) frumpy article about about the designer jean phenomenon. Which is almost the exact opposite of what he thinks denim fashion is: it’s an arms race to the top, to be as flashy with your expensive jeans as your bank account allows. He could argue that hipsters (if he had heard of them) are obsessed with a faux working class vibe, but I think that that has its roots in a yearning for the masculinity of another era, not an affinity for juvenility.

Friedersdorf at the American Scene says Will should set his sights on pleated chinos, but I’d like to think bigger. A quick check of his bio reveals something abhorrently low-class, and terribly un-white (Webster’s 2c, “marked by upright fairness,” or 3d, “favorable, fortunate,” nothing racist, I assure you) about him. A long neck-tie? How awful. I would hardly wear such an accesory to the lavatory, and I deem it suitable only for beggards and lepers. A quality bow-tie, preferably of the Ben Silver or Brooks Brothers marks, now that might be a civilized piece of neckware.

Dear Representative,

President Obama recently released Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memos which authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” I believe that these techniques constitute torture, and thus violate federal and international law. We must prosecute those responsible.

Here is a partial list of the techniques employed by CIA agents, justified by the Office of Legal Counsel, and possibly ordered by the White House.

  • Forced nudity.
  • Sleep deprivation up to 180 hours, or 7.5 days. The detainee shall have his hands shackled above their head, so as to force them in an upright position. The detainee shall be made to wear a diaper.
  • Diet restriction to 4 cans of Ensure per day. The recommended minimum is 1500 calories per day, but the detainee may be fed as few as 1000 calories per day.
  • Cramped confinement in a box with insects.
  • Dousing with cold water (41 degrees F, 5 degrees C).
  • The waterboard.

Each of these techniques, and especially combinations of them, are inhumane, cruel, or degrading. At least one of these techniques, the waterboard, whose primary purpose is to cause a fear of imminent death, inflicts severe mental suffering on the victim. These techniques constitute torture.

Torture is illegal according to 18 U.S.C. subsections 2340-2340A, as well as according to the Geneva Convention, to which the United States is a signatory. President Reagan signed a treaty that stated, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture,” and that “Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.” The US Constitution states that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

Please protect human rights, our safety and moral authority, and the rule of law in our country. The Constitution is under attack, and you took an oath to defend it. Please do so by pressing for investigations into these crimes.

Thank you for your service.