The simple and the complicated

A friend remarked yesterday, in a conversation about the – what to call it – the Official Ostracism of Me, that we’re all learning and it might be quite a good idea to be patient and not-horrible while we’re learning. Not the exact words, but that’s the gist.

It made me realize that one of the things I like most about having a blog is that I can write about what I’m learning, as I’m learning it. I can think aloud about what I’m learning. It’s note-taking, and discussion, and sharing. That’s what I like in other people’s blogs, too.

But, weirdly, we’re not allowed to learn about this subject. We’re supposed to have accepted particular conclusions, which is quite different from learning something (even if your learning takes you to the same place). We’re supposed to utter particular formulas, and answer yes to abrupt simplistic yes-or-no questions. That’s antithetical to learning, and to thinking as well.

Mind you…as I spelled out last week, I am willing, and more than willing, to answer yes to moral and political questions, even some yes-or-no ones. “Will you treat people as they ask to be treated?” “Yes, of course.”

But questions about what we mean by identity, the self, experience, mental states, conformity, stereotypes, gender roles, gender expression, performance…those I want to discuss rather than affirm or deny.

Shakespeare and the second person singular

I wrote a column for the Freethinker a couple of days ago about Shakespeare and undermotivated evil, via Hamlet and then Iago, with an observation on one way Shakespeare violated the conventions of his time.

There’s one Shakespeare character, though, who stands out for the flimsiness of his stated reasons compared to the malice and cruelty of what he does. He’s pissed off that he didn’t get a promotion, maybe possibly his wife has the hots for Othello. Othello is a good guy and that makes Iago look bad – blah blah. He claims all these at different times, so they cancel each other out, and seem like rationalizations instead of reasons. Really he just does it because he wants to, and he can. Desdemona and Othello are happy, so he’ll make them not happy, and not alive either. [Read more…]

Der Narzißmus der kleinen Differenzen

It’s Sayre’s law.

Sayre’s law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905–1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University.

On 20 December 1973, the Wall Street Journal quoted Sayre as: “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” Political scientist Herbert Kaufman, a colleague and coauthor of Sayre, has attested to Fred R. Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, that Sayre usually stated his claim as “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low”, and that Sayre originated the quip by the early 1950s.

There’s also the narcissism of small differences.

The narcissism of small differences (der Narzißmus der kleinen Differenzen) is “the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other” – “such sensitiveness […] to just these details of differentiation”.[1]

How, exactly, do you pronounce shibboleth, again?

Be concerned

I’ve just realized something very worrying – it’s possible that this laptop I’m typing on is a man’s laptop. I didn’t check when I bought it. It’s black and chrome, no pink anywhere – that’s not a good sign.

Also the coffee I drink. It could be Coffee for Men for all I know.

And my toothpaste. Oh gosh.

And my lightbulbs?

My books? I have a few thousand, so that’s scary.

I have some peaches though. They’re probably Girl Fruit.

Deep divisions in the literary world

Salman Rushdie talked to L’Express the other day; the Guardian shares some highlights in translation.

Salman Rushdie believes that if The Satanic Verses had been published today, the members of the literary elite who rounded on Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the French satirical magazine winning a PEN prize for courage would not have defended him.

I think he’s quite right. Things have moved on since the fatwa, and not in a good way. The very awfulness of theocratic Islamism (that’s a tautology, but people get confused about what Islamism is) has helped to make it harder to resist theocratic Islamism. The thinking goes: Islamists do terrible things, and that makes people be horrible to Muslims in general, so we have to redouble our efforts to stand up for Muslims in general, which means we have to hide or deny or minimize or obfuscate the reality of theocratic Islamism.

You can understand the reasoning for each part, but where it ends up is a mess. [Read more…]

It’s about the magnesium

Aw shucks, as so often happens, once you look it up it’s not quite as fatuous as it looked.

Stonemill explains:

Thank you to all of our customers who have provided feedback on the recently launched Men’s and Women’s Wellbeing breads. We’ve had many positive comments about these new breads, but have also had some customers express concern about the gender-specific labelling.

As background, our intention when creating the Wellbeing breads was to support the unique and different nutrient needs of men and women. We worked under the guidance of a registered dietitian to identify the specific nutrients men and women require on a daily basis and what they may fall short on. For example, Health Canada indicates that up to 50% percent of men fall short of magnesium, while 80% of women may not get enough calcium. Therefore the Wellbeing bread for women was enhanced with calcium and for men with magnesium. Since bread is a staple food in many diets, we felt it was a smart place to add more nutritional value.

We now fully understand that while our intention was focused on nutrition, we appreciate and respect our customer concerns over the marketing of the product and have therefore decided to remove any gender-specific labelling. These highly nutritious products will still be available to you, but with new labelling.

Ok. Honestly though, you’d think someone in their marketing department or their customer relations department or their what color shall we make the labels department would have realized how silly it looks to add gender to bread.

I demand unisex bread for all. The bread’s preferred pronouns are they / fzzms.

He’s not biting

Wow. A new low every day.

Marian Melby’s blog. Post by HJ Hornbeck.

I’m currently away, with only a scattered internet connection.

If you’re looking for M.A. Melby, you have the wrong extension. Please hang up and try again.

If you’re a blogger in the middle of a meltdown over accusations of transphobia, I spotted that post of yours thanks to a commenter. Nice troll, but I’m not biting.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t approved your comment or made one myself, technical reasons are conspiring to prevent it. About all I can do from here is write or edit blog posts, and only then when I catch a spare moment and/or build up sufficient outrage.

For all other inquiries, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

…. Oh wait. Hmmm. Maybe try carrier pigeon?



Rosetta and Philae awesomeness

StevoR left us some treats in the Withdrawing Room:

Rosetta and Philae awesomeness :

Stick with that first photo – its an animation with some pretty impressive reality in it.

Plus :

Also a good radio segment on Pluto, Kepler 452b ad more here as well :

Hope these are interesting & informative for folks here.