November 6th, 2024

Andalusian Dewey…

  • el
  • pt
  • Driving the seaminess out of semiotics since 1979

    * * *

    H/T Jeff Ward

    If one wishes to realize the distance which may lie between “facts” and the meaning of facts, let one go to the field of social discussion. Many persons seem to suppose that facts carry their meaning along with themselves on their face. Accumulate enough of them, and their interpretation stares out at you. The development of physical science is thought to confirm the idea. But the power of physical facts to coerce belief does not reside in the bare phenomena. It proceeds from method, from the technique of research and calculation. No one is ever forced by just collection of facts to accept a particular theory of their meaning, so long as one retains intact some other doctrine by which he can marshal them. Only when the facts are allowed free play for the suggestion of new points of view is any significant conversion of conviction as to meaning possible. Take away from physical science its laboratory apparatus and its mathematical technique, and the human imagination might run wild in its theories of interpretation even if we suppose the brute facts to remain the same. (5)

    John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems

    At dinner tonight Beth asked me to explain what it is about postmodernism that I find so troubling. I took her around and around Robin Hood’s barn before centering down on the issues that have troubled me. First, I am concerned that a Gresham’s law of academics may have narrowed research and devalued the currency of American scholarship over the last thirty years. Has the emergence of a claque applauding continental theorists to the exclusion of other inquiry had a negative impact on academic freedom? I sense that this is so, I fear it, but I haven’t the data or the models to substantiate it. Fortunately, in a postmodern context I really don’t need to derive the data. What I really need to do is draw other like-minded people together in an interpretive community and we can howl at the moon together.

    A second and perhaps more meaningful concern (in light of my continuing interest in popular culture and academia’s success at occupying the nerdy corner of pop) relates to my glimmer of understanding that postmodernism is over and what’s next might be very interesting indeed. But for the last five years in my corner of the blogosphere, the emergence of a “New New Criticism” has been hidden and postmodernists have arrogated the discussion without turning toward that interesting question, “What’s next?” So it remains for me to answer it myself.

    November 4th, 2024


    SKYLAR (cont’d)
    Maybe we could go out for coffee

    Great, or maybe we could go somewhere
    and just eat a bunch of caramels.


    When you think about it, it’s just as
    arbitrary as drinking coffee.
    Good Will Hunting

    I just finished a great sci-fi novel (Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson) wherein a character is convinced that knowledge is discovered, not created. The distinction seemed false and arbitrary to me. Swift googlery revealed that others have bothered to have opinions on this, so I guess it’s more than just a trope. On the “discovery” side of the ledger, we might post Archimedes and his flash of insight regarding specific gravity. On the creation side reside, I believe, not only legitimate synergistic and innovative applications of existing knowledge within a scientific theoretical framework to create the never-before-known, but also all those attempts to apply language to understanding that require nuanced distinctions and arbitrary dimensional shifts in order to lend a fresh perspective, to restate the mundane. The former are meaningful. The latter devoid of meaning. Viva, I suppose, la differance.

    Knowledge can be created when there is theory to lend a framework, a perspective for discovery. For years the atomic chart had holes in it. But experimentalists devised methods to isolate the previously undiscovered elements and thus created knowledge of their existence.

    Fresh perspectives yield new theoretical frameworks, and within these frameworks undiscovered information waits to be revealed, hidden knowledge to be discovered, or created. This is a modern sensibility that fuses the arbitrary distinction between created and discovered knowledge. Knowledge is seldom discovered or created and never described outside of a theoretical framework, and the controlling irony of scientific investigation is that the purest and most parsimonious application of Occam’s razor yields an understanding of systems that evolve from simplicity to chaos.

    All of which may be by way of thanking J. Alva for the DVD, I suppose. Inspector Lohman, in a lengthy post that J. Alva linked, said:

    The wish to convey one’s understanding of the world to others asserts one’s existence. That most blogs are nothing more than online journals is decisive, for the intent is not to communicate one’s thoughts to oneself, but are, rather, intentioned attempts to share oneself with others, and is, thus, necessarily a way to discover or create community, to find someone who will witness one’s thoughts, one’s experience. It is a call that says “I am living, and this is what I see, what I feel, what I think” — whether or not that call is answered. The desire to blog is a testament to our innate wish to connect with others: it is tossing out a line into the ether, one that asserts our existence through our voice, a voice that wants to be heard; or, put another way, they are messages in a bottle tossed into the ocean that is the blogosphere, messages which have the potential of finding a sympathetic reader who understands; and thus a connection is made, a community is formed.

    My post today on Caramels is the kind of thing that few will value… it’s ruminative at best and it adds little to anyone else’s understanding of the world. There are many bloggers whose brilliance and sensitivity I respect who seem to understand the world in the context of creation of knowledge through verbal exploits. I try to temper with humility my certainty that they are wrong, that “post-modern theory” is objectively a construct that has pushed aside the most promising and legitimate lines of inquiry in the areas of artistic criticism, political governance, psychology and social studies making room for the global emergence of corporate fascism.

    I’m pleased that there are those like Bruce, Ray, J. Alva, Norm, Leslie, and many others in my corner of the blogosphere who are willing occasionally to entertain, and be entertained by my retro-socialist observations and convictions.

    I hope that in 2024 we can have a CaramelCon, and all come together somewhere to enjoy each other’s company.

    November 2nd, 2024


    We’re pretty sure that it’s mumps. Or maybe Beth is morphing into some kind of chipmunk. No. More likely it’s mumps. The doctor ordered up some lab tests and told her to stay home until the results are in. Easy orders to follow since she certainly doesn’t feel like moving around much.

    Picture lifted from Jaybob

    October 29th, 2024

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

    My advice? Self administer, then self medicate.

    [UPDATE: colorless, green, ideas, sleep, furiously — invisible pink unicorn]

    October 12th, 2024

    Guardian quotes Lancet: 650,000 dead in Iraq

    From The Guardian (October 12, 2024),

    The death toll in Iraq following the US-led invasion has topped 655,000 - one in 40 of the entire population - according to a major piece of research in one of the world’s leading medical journals.

    The study, produced by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and published online by The Lancet, claims the total number of deaths is more than 10 times greater than any previously compiled estimate.

    The findings provoked an immediate political storm. Within hours of its release, George Bush had dismissed the figures. “I don’t consider it a credible report,” he told reporters at the White House.

    Tonight Katie Couric led with a rehash of the unfortunate Lacrosse team rape charges at Duke stemming from a party last spring. She was ginning up interest in a weekend show her company produces called Sixty Minutes where the plight of the Lacrosse team and the possibilities that these are false charges will be examined in prurient detail, the better to take our minds off national and international issues that should now be getting the air time.

    The Couric broadcast continued with other items of interest and concern… evidently the Amish community that suffered the recent school shooting has pulled down the schoolhouse and no memorial is planned. There’s a lot of that kind of news. And there is happy news, ice cream cones and puppies, but there is no solid news, no important news, NO NATIONAL NEWS that could save our way of life were it only broadcast with clarity in time. The only news that the American public hears is local news. A school shooting here, a rape case there, all the fits that’s news to print. It can’t be collusion, it’s simply cowardice, fear, unwillingness to encounter an administration that would send anthrax to your newsroom. It doesn’t matter if they actually did that. No thinking person today can deny that they, the Bush administration and its corporate clients WOULD do that to save the billions they might otherwise lose with a sea change in governance in the United States of America.

    650,000 dead, and it’s our fault. We elected the monster. Then we re-elected him. Do you believe the Lancet or do you believe George W. Bush?

    “We estimate that, as a consequence of the coalition invasion of March 18, 2024, about 655 000 Iraqis have died above the number that would be expected in a non-conflict situation, which is equivalent to about 2·5% of the population in the study area. About 601 000 of these excess deaths were due to violent causes. Our estimate of the post-invasion crude mortality rate represents a doubling of the baseline mortality rate, which, by the Sphere standards, constitutes a humanitarian emergency.”
    The Lancet

    October 10th, 2024

    Spiritual but not delicious…

    When I hear someone say, “Oh yeah, I’m spiritual, but not — you know — religious,” I am reminded of Father Rageboy’s first commandment, to wit:

    Vapid and narcissistic are they who repeat the mantra “I’m spiritual but not religious.”

    Kneeling for communion at the temple of rage I heard the priest intone, “Take, eat this you whitebread muthahfuckah… it’s nobody’s body, we’re spiritual here but not religious, it’s just a metaphor… whitebread, get it? Do you get it!? Whitebread schmuck.”

    I could see why they called it the temple of rage. The temple of rage, of course was but one stop on my metaphysical journey. I also spent a great deal of time at Starbucks seeking the clarity of an open wireless connection. And the Crate and Barrel outlet store down on 4th Street in Berkeley. Williams of Sonoma on Union Square. Pottery Barn at better malls across America. Nordstroms. The Nature Company in its original location just outside the tunnel on the Alameda. Smith and Hawken in Mill Valley… Ahhh, hippie capitalism at its best. Plant materials from Berkeley Hort. Sensual massage at Esalen down in Big Sur. A house in Marin, good dope, identical twins… little scorpios in their tandem stroller and identical maple cribs.

    Spiritual was I, and bourgeois to the max. Dining out in the gourmet ghetto, riding BART with a New York Times done up in a commuter’s fold. The Larkspur ferry before that. Double vodka martinis and rubber bridge all the way home. My partner had some kind of three way going with Kaiser and Bechtel… Libyan bauxite, French refractories, and the best Bechtel built nuclear reactors available for offshore construction. We kicked ass. I was way spiritual on the commute home in those days.

    I could balance the bindle and the straw and horn in copious quantities of Bolivia’s best in rough seas off Angel Island and never drop a crumb on the floor of the head. “Head.” That’s ferry boat nautical for toilet.

    Was I spiritual but not religious?

    When Locke writes these condemnatory tracts linking Emerson through Nietzsche to Hitler and Corporatist emergent fascism founded in post-war Allied fervid religious gratitude and shit, I pale. Is it me? All these people I hung out with were heavy into the Urantia Book and all that crap. Is it mean spirited and hypocritical of me to admit that I was only there then for the dope and the music.

    All I can say right now is that I was NEVER that spiritual. And by the time I got religious I was well on my way to informed atheism, so screw the guilt. I can sit back free of guilt and enjoy his explication of the spiritual left and the spiritual right and the undercurrents that unite them, informed and aware and in concert with the idea that there is a lot of denial present whenever spiritual fundamentals overtake reason, common-sense, and altruism, whether that spirituality is founded in religion or the bourgeois mysticism that is vapid narcissism.

    Something is happening here and I know what it is, I’m jonesing for more truth.

    October 8th, 2024

    Tax the churches…

    Thanks to Cowtown Pattie for this link that got me all riled up.

    It’s back to this. In the late sixties I did a quick real estate survey of downtown Madison, Wisconsin and in addition to all the land tied up by governmental and educational institutions, an appalling amount of the best locations and the fanciest architecture was in the hands of religion. The most valuable land was - and remains - off the tax rolls. Now huge evangelical republican shrines are being built across the country and generally they too are separated from this community obligation by the very laws they’re trying to neutralize when they meddle in civil marriage concerns, sexual health issues, scientific advances in medicine, and the public school curriculum. I say give them a shot at banning all the books they want. Let them bring it to a vote, book by book. But if they’re flushing their turds down my sewer and drinking my municipal water and increasing traffic on the public streets every Sunday when their flag decaled and magnetic ribboned SUVs caravan to their tax sheltered places of worship, then let them pay the taxes and be governed by the same rules that the rest of us follow.

    In god’s name, can’t we tax and regulate the poor benighted ignoramuses before they swallow up the country like some plague of locusts? Roughly one third of Americans are stupid enough or twisted enough or suffered enough abuse that they believe that evangelical crap. Why should two thirds of us have to suffer under their oppressive nonsense? Tax them. Let them render a little unto Caesar for a change. The freeloaders have been sucking our communities dry long enough.

    October 4th, 2024

    Black body radiation

    John Mather says,

    I think of it as the accumulated trace of everything. The history is roughly this; the early universe, in the first submicroseconds, was extremely [word inaudible] and all of the cosmic particles, protons, electrons, unstable nuclear particles, neutrinos and photons and background radiation were all hot and were all together. Then, as the universe expanded, progressively each kind either disappeared, because it was unstable, or annihilated some other kind of particle, or did not. But in any case they all cooled down and so the cosmic microwave background radiation is actually a remnant that traces back to those very earliest moments. But we see features of it that were finally set later. For instance, the spectrum that we observed to test the big bang theory could have been modified as late as, say a year after the big bang. And even in most recent times of course things in our own galaxy, and other galaxies, can emit small amounts of radiation that would confuse the measurements.

    George Smoot:

    We’re looking back to a time which is between 300,000 and 400,000 years after the Big Bang, which seems like a long time, but we’re, you know, 15 billion years, 14 billion years after the Big Bang now. So, in human terms the analogy I usually give is that it’s like looking at an embryo that’s a few hours old. That’s how far back we’re looking, in terms of – you know, putting the universe in human terms.

    But what these (big air quotes) “scientists” have (and again the air quotes) “demonstrated” flies straight in the face of our most revered Christian teachings, teachings themselves rooted in the enlightenment period when all biblical knowledge was fair game for analysis and such great minds as Bishop Ussher set themselves the task of dating the universe (but actually she had to stay home and wash her hair that night)… no — wait, not that kind of dating, I have it on note cards here somewhere… oh yes…

    Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom,

    …the general conclusion arrived at by an overwhelming majority of the most competent students of the biblical accounts was that the date of creation was, in round numbers, four thousand years before our era; and in the seventeenth century, in his great work, Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and one of the most eminent Hebrew scholars of his time, declared, as the result of his most profound and exhaustive study of the Scriptures, that “heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together, in the same instant, and clouds full of water,” and that “this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o’clock in the morning.”

    And most authoritatively, the Bishop himself:

    And I have observed by the continued succession of these years, as they are delivered in holy writ, that the end of the great Nebuchadnezars and the beginning of Evilmerodachs (his sons) reign, fell out in the 3442 year of the world, but by collation of Chaldean history and the astronomical cannon, it fell out in the 186 year c Nabonasar, and, as by certain connexion, it must follow in the 562 year before the Christian account, and of the Julian Period, the 4152. and from thence I gathered the creation of the world did fall out upon the 710 year of the Julian Period, by placing its beginning in autumn: but for as much as the first day of the world began with the evening of the first day of the week, I have observed that the Sunday, which in the year 710 aforesaid came nearest the Autumnal Æquinox, by astronomical tables (notwithstanding the stay of the sun in the dayes of Joshua, and the going back of it in the dayes c Ezekiah) happened upon the 23 day of the Julian October; from thence concluded that from the evening preceding that first day of the Julian year, both the first day of the creation and the first motion of time are to be deduced.

    — J. Ussher, The Annals of the World iv (1658)

    So I aks ya… who you gonna believe? A man of god or some nukular physicsist?

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