Archive for August, 2010

By Any Other Name

August 31, 2010

Assist me in creating the proper mood by first watching this video from Slate.

Walking the Earth in a soft and pulpy mass are large herds of Humans who actually believe in things. Such a mental state is difficult for the educated liberal to fully accept or grasp, as a background rife with nuance and history impedes the North Easterner’s ability to fully commit. The liberal is frustrated at the very notion of unwavering belief, and his forehead wrinkles and eyes narrow over thoughts such as:

“How can one suspend one’s faculties in favour of an ideology?”

The attendance figures for the Restoring Honor rally in Washington DC are in dispute, but the most conservative estimate is 78000. A frightening figure if one takes time to consider those in attendance represent only those both willing and able to make the trip.

18% of Americans are self-identified Tea Party Supporters. That’s 55260000 (55 million, 260 thousand) folks teeming with bromide laced talk of a socialist America tinkering on the edge of gleeful destruction at the hands of Kenyan Muslim. Take some time with the notion. The sober and secular Liberals, well armed with cautionary tales and measured responses, do not represent *the rest*.

“Yes yes,” says the secular liberal, “extremists are bad.” Explore the word for a moment, what is an extremist? Is it the view held or the number of followers who hold the view? One might make the argument that as society changes, our attitudes that define “extreme” from “moderate” change as well. However, from a political (or religious) standpoint, well defined poles of behavior exist independent of culture. Ayn Rand thought that government should consist of nothing more than cops, courts, and the army. A view very far right of, say, Marxism, and regardless of what lens you look through, or cultural prejudices inherent in your society. The natural inference, is that an extreme view is independent of the number of adherents

Mass protest by Muslims during the Danish Cartoons controversy (which, if nothing else, points to a large body of people who believe their religion trumps the secular value of free speech) is another example of a mainstream value system than cannot in good conscience be called moderate.

The “few bad apples” argument, aside from being simply incorrect, leads to all kinds of outrageous and evil apologizing and self hatred on the part of left leaning westerners. The September 11th attacks were almost instantly characterized by vast tracks of said leftists as “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” What such complete nonsense assumes is that Islamic Extremists are responding to American imperialism, and not to (oh this should be so very obvious) their own Islamic Extremism. Duh.

Let’s return to the thesis of the argument: the educated liberal does not understand what it means to really believe in something. Whether it be the ideals of the founding fathers of America, Jesus or Muhammad, Trotskyism, or what have you. For this lack of empathy with the true believer, the liberal is subject to all kinds of fallacious assumptions, most obvious being “they don’t *really* believe.”

They do.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

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E-compatibility

August 26, 2010

Below is a heavily reworked piece, originally titled Finishing Each Other’s Sentences

Originally published, May 2009

The next time you find yourself awash in dangerous toxin and in dire need of a means to induce vomiting, I suggest clicking here.

The E-Harmony ad campaign, with its noisome Jazz-pop and impossibly handsome couples, is such obvious fantasy that I dare say no one is fooled. The men in the ads are especially hard to believe, with their fashion model looks, interesting careers, sensitivity, and artistic streaks, are the archetype for the love-interest in any feminine masturbatory aid you care to name.

The conceit is that E-Harmony, unlike the balance of the online dating sphere, will match you based on “compatibility.” Aside from sidestepping the obvious question “by what means other than compatibility can one be matched?” the actors (or, “real couples,” if that is to be believed) have such universal appeal, that no talk of compatibility is at all relevant in their cases. Can we get a show of hands from the female readership that would reject a handsome chemist who likes to paint, is vulnerable but decisive enough to drag you off to the closet for a grope, and is interested in something stable? Some types are almost universally attractive, and any talk of “compatibility” is neither here nor there.

It is plain to all and sundry that E-Harmony is selling a fantasy. However, buried under the nauseating love-in is a subtle message: online dating is okay. Look at these successful people; they are busy, sick of the bar scene, and have excellent reasons why they are 30 and single. These people aren’t losers and neither will you be. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Twenty-five years ago you were a social outcast by definition for merely owning a computer. Now that it can get you laid, the computer is well established as mainstream and girl-friendly.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

Psyonic Jesus and the Rabies he Got

August 25, 2010

Below is a heavily reworked piece originally titled Follow Your Nose.

Originally Published, June 2010

Take a moment to imagine the day-to-day of a dog blind since birth. He will likely waggle happily when he senses his master’s presence, and while curled up on the rug at night, betray no obvious handicap when dutifully barking and snarling at whatever random noise he might detect. Despite a life where the world of forms is denied to him, our canine companion is content for not knowing what he is missing.

Our friend the blind dog is not only blind, but ignorant of sight. The ignorance of the dog is complete, for he lacks both access to and awareness of a fifth sense – that there might be a world of sight can not possibly occur to a blind dog. A blind (since birth) man, living among the sighted, is all too aware there is a sense denied to him, that there is a kind of information to which he has no access.

Most human beings experience the world via sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, and then process that information with a brain. Much the same can be said for most of the rest of the animal kingdom. When it comes to exploring our universe, if there are kinds of information expressed in forms other than what our five senses can detect, then that knowledge is forever denied to us. Even technological innovation or contact with an alien species in possession of senses other than our own is not sufficient cause for optimism, for that technology or species must be able to express information that will conform to sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch, or we cannot know about it.

Ponder the philosophical riddle “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” I don’t wish to proffer an opinion on what one is supposed to glean about the nature of observation and reality from this cliched and ancient piece of wisdom. However, if human and animal life on Earth never evolved ears, the best we could have come up with is “If a tree falls in the forest, does it shake the ground?” Vibrations and sound waves may be one in the same, but it doesn’t become sound as we know it until it reaches our brains, and via our ears.

What a sixth sense might be is impossible to intelligently discuss. Science fiction writers often dream up various kinds of extra sensory perception; telekinesis, telepathy, The Force, empathic sense, et cetera and ad infinitum. While we can posit such possibilities, we cannot meaningfully address the likelihood of an alien species evolving ESP, or even if it is remotely possible that such abilities could evolve. What we are forced to accept, is that while other senses may be requisite for gaining access to the universe’s secrets, we cannot begin to imagine what a reasonable example of an ESP might be.

The pernicious parasite that is relativism is rooted in the notion that one cannot know another mind. While we must accept such notions as what you see may not be what I see and your experience is different from my experience I ask you to consider what questions those caveats of knowledge inform. The simple answer is: none. Sensory information is processed by almost all humans identically, and extremely similar conclusions about most everything in life will be drawn as a result. Cheetahs are faster than turtles, rocks are harder than paper, children are smaller than adults, chocolate tastes different from chicken, women bear children, chopping off a person’s head results in the cessation of bodily functions. There are no arguments between individuals or cultures about those facts of life, and while the anthropocentric nature of perception is no doubt at play when people come to those conclusions, the perception is nonetheless the same from human to human. How to raise our children, what it means to be alive, how to be a good person, and how to manage our resources, may be important questions, but the overwhelming majority of decisions and conclusions human beings make in their daily lives, are virtually identical.

We cannot in good faith accept an unsound argument on the grounds that we cannot peer into the mind of another, to see what they see and feel what they feel. Our brains may vary slightly from person to person, and our individual senses may be more or less acute, but no person who has ever lived can claim a sixth sense. They wouldn’t be human by definition.

Spiritual experience is often touted by some as representing access to information normally denied to us. Such experiences, that we choose to describe as spiritual, may very well represent suspensions of the natural order or divine influence. Unfortunately, we have yet to produce a spiritual experience informing us of a single fact otherwise denied to the culture the person undergoing the episode belongs to. Such a fact would go a long way toward establishing a truly divine intervention.

Some point to the weakness of language, and that it is unfair to insist people intelligibly express the meaning of their spiritual life for the difficulty inherent in couching such experiences. Fair point. However, if we concede that some transcendental experiences are difficult to express, those that place importance on them must concede that interpreting the numinous is equally fraught with difficulty. That in no way can one draw conclusions based on an experience one cannot intellectualize.

If you cannot express what you cannot state therefore.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

Oy Vey! Not Another One!

August 24, 2010

Below is a heavily reworked piece, originally titled Antisemitism Remixed.

Originally published, October 2009.

Antisemitism is boring and unoriginal. It manifests in many forms, from rabid to casual, and from genuine hatred to deluded Semitic embrace. The antisemitic spectrum is interesting only for its history and persistence, and that it is a kind of racism unique from the ill feelings towards other groups, as it is expressed worldwide and by people who have no direct knowledge or experience with the Jewish question.

The Jews of 13th century England were the money lenders, for money lending was prohibited to Christians. Edward the I, practical anti-Semite that he was, borrowed extensively so as to build England into a major power, and at the same time enacted laws to marginalize English Jews. He proclaimed that all the Jews in England  must wear a yellow Star of David so they may be readily identified  (the you-know-whos thought that a brilliant idea as well).

Edward’s penchant for simple solutions to complex problems turned ugly when instead of inching England into the black with deft economic wielding, he simply banished the Jews, and with them went debts both public and private. A very popular decision at the time, and as the Jews were forced to migrate at their own expense, gentile ship owners doubly benefited. One enterprising ship’s captain thought to cut down on expenses by depositing his cargo of Jews on an island at low tide in the English Channel – resulting in the group drowning when the tide came rolling in a few hours later.

Antisemitism is no invention of the Nazis is hardly an original observation. Anyone with the slightest clue knows that Jewish persecution is an ancient phenomenon, and common throughout Europe during the first half of the 20th century. Be that as it may, that caveat is often forgotten when discussing the influence of the Nazi propaganda machine. The story often goes like this: Germany, under the spell of the magnetic Adolf Hiter and hoodwinked by the agitprop of Goebbels, is transformed into frenzied mass of hatred and resentment toward those who stabbed Germany in the back, costing them the last great European war.

But how to measure the effect of propaganda? Surely, the germ of hatred is already present in Germany and antisemitism is mainstream, and while the leap from casual distaste to state-sponsored genocide may be a long one, to assume the result of evangelical racism is substantial rather than a mild reinforcement of preexisting  prejudice, is to see humanity as little more than fleshy robots Рdownloading whatever is fed to them and incapable of thought.

What is plain, and what is made plain by the Wansee Conference (brilliantly retold in the film Conspiracy, starring Kenneth Braughnaugh) is the sophisticated brand of hatred practiced by all levels of German society. Some desired the Jews to be deported (perhaps to Madagascar). Others saw sterilization as the superior solution. Others still, saw any form of mercy too good for the Jews. What wasn’t in question, amongst the officer class, lawyers, politicians, old and young alike, was that the Jews were the enemy. No propaganda is that effective, and no form of advertising yet discovered is sufficient explanation for the frightening conviction held by such a literate and educated people.

Stories of a hypnotized populace are easier to live with than the difficult yet adult conclusion that vile hatred lingers near the surface, ready to make itself known whenever things take a turn. Fairytales constructed by well meaning historians so we may all sleep better.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

I Like it Vanilla

August 20, 2010

Below is another reworked piece, originally titled Wake Up Blitzen.

First Published April 02, 2008

My favourite flavour of ice cream is vanilla. The typical responses by my peers to my simple assertion of preference span the chasm of shocked disbelief to bemusement. Those who delight in two scoops of Triple Chocolate Orgasm cannot fathom why someone might choose to forgo such an overwhelming sensory delight in favour of a bonne bouche that is entirely non-diverting.

The fear of condemnation for being boring and possessing the sexual charisma of a limp husk, led me to query the etymological connection between “vanilla” and “plain” or “ordinary.” It began in America in the 1970s, and most commonly meant “conventional, of ordinary sexual preferences.” Using “vanilla” today still describes the ever broadening list of common sexual practices, and the metaphor of an all white dessert of simple flavour standing in for three and a half minutes of missionary sex is a natural one.

However, if one mines the encyclopedias and dictionaries with perseverance, one finds an odd nugget – a most curious accident of history. The word “vanilla” derives from the Spanish word “vainilla” which finds its roots in the latin “vagina.” Named by 18th century conquistadors for the plant’s resemblance to our favourite part of the female anatomy.

Our unassuming dessert choice finds its origins marked by an overt sexual reference. Double Fudge Brownie Explosion may cause women to press their knees together while their eyes roll back in ecstasy, but cannot claim any definable connection to the world of sex, unlike trusty vanilla.

So I await my next dessert date down at the Malt Shoppe, where she will undoubtedly spoon mouthfuls of Rocky Road and I, meek and mild, will just as surely have a bowl of naturel. But with a raised eyebrow and a grin, I will draw her attention to a spoonful of my ice and ask “remind you of anything?”

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

Gawk & Snicker

August 19, 2010

Below is a heavily reworked piece originally titled The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall

First published March 13, 2008.

A stable relationship comes bundled with many hidden costs. One easily overlooked charge is the inevitable boredom couples radiate around them – their well defined sexual status slacking the tension that is otherwise palpable when people of the opposite sex mingle. The only exceptions to this banal state of affairs are the new or unhappy pairs. Foundations yet to be poured or beginning to crack are grist for the sewing circle and card table alike, but the well established tandem is passed over for having nothing to contribute to the mill of chatter and assumption.

The high wire act is invariably made less interesting for having a safety net. The skill and talent and concentration of the acrobat is no less impressive for having insurance, but the drama of the event is all but removed. Something similar can be said when a couple arrives at a party. In the majority of cases they will arrive together, and will spend their first moments unconsciously making known they are taken and by whom. From this unmistakable jumping off point, they are free to unyoke and disperse, and even gently flirt with the opposite sex, all the while knowing that across the room is the warden, ready to reinforce and reestablish the relationship with a pet or a peck should it be thought necessary.

The single person at the same gathering is forced to work without a net, and in full view of their peers. Their encounters with those whose body parts fail to match but are nonetheless perfectly compatible are rife with dangerous potentiality. They must at the same time flirt with desirable mates, be prepared to gracefully extricate themselves from undesired consideration, and handle the embarrassment of having to do so while their friends exchange knowing glances. Forgive my repeating myself for saying again that such an act is a tightrope.

The single person instills genuine intrigue for being a variable. The attached are whole numbers, countable and mundane.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

Dear Internet

August 17, 2010

For the past two years I have scribbled and fought within the confines of the (semi) exclusive Facebook, honing my skills and reshaping my style from that of polemical and didactic to expansive and chewy. Now, I am peeking my head above the trench to gaze at the enemy with my own eyes, and am abandoning the relative safety of the captured audience. Here, I will type anew, and seek out those not predisposed to me and hope for a genuine encounter, an argument, and a means of attack and praise for those I loathe and love respectively. Additionally, I am taking on the laborious task of selecting and editing the best of the 300 entries that predate and predestine this blog – some 90 000 words spewed in bite-sized portions.

Many have kicked and prodded and pleaded with me to start sharing my cast-away reflections with a wider audience. I was and am flattered that some have taken the time to pull me aside at parties (and on one occasion offer me work) to inquire why I “waste” my output on Facebook, where only a select few can read it, and even fewer will bother. To those I always responded “who but my friends will read me?” I still suspect my readership will fail to grow as a result of unshackling the text from the confines of my 204 friends, but I am acquiescing to the attempt, and if you will forgive the cliche, I have nothing to lose.

So, fans, I am counting on you to link me via Facebook or Twitter or whatever it is you do to stay in touch with your legions, and convince me that you were right all along about my mass appeal.

Your one and only chance to win an argument with yours.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff [at]gmail.com


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