Monday, October 29, 2007
People have made fun of Bush for nearly a decade for his inarticulate speech and lack of diction. I'm sure somebody has addressed the issue of why he is the way he is, but I haven't seen it.
18th century rhetorical theorist Hugh Blair says, "Speech is the great instrument by which man becomes beneficial to man: and it is to this intercourse and transmission of thought, by means of speech, that we are chiefly indebted for the improvement of thought itself."
He's saying that speech and the ability to use it to take a thought from my head and put it in your head is responsible for nearly all advances in everything from culture, to science, to technology. But more fundamentally, the ability of reason itself stems from our ability to transmit thoughts and ideas, not just to each other, our contemporaries, but to people who will come later.
It is the fact that we have all of this combined knowledge from all of those people who lived before us that we are able to do all of the things that we are able to do today. Communication is the key, in other words, to everything.
So, where do bad communicators come from? How come there are so many today? I'm talking about boring, uninspiring speakers who don't give people anything useful. Bush, Kerry, Obama, Clinton, uh...Paul, etc etc. They are terrible speakers who give their hearers nothing but canned stump speeches that have been tested before focus groups, and pushed forcefully through speech writing mills, basically, in an effort to--in their mind--distill the essence of whatever truth it is that they are trying to transmit.
Whether you believe that Bush is deliberately trying to pull the wool over the eyes of America is beside the point here. Whether Bush is deliberately playing dumb to appeal to dumb people, is not on the chopping block for this particular tirade. What's really important is the fact that Bush is boring. The only emotions he can inspire in the people of America are fear and anger. And he's losing the knack for the former.
A poll during one of the past elections (I can't remember which one, nor do I care) revealed that Bush Jr. was the candidate that the electorate would most like to sit down and have a beer with. The Onion parodied this very nicely back in 2005. The article smacks of truth. The perception that Bush is "just like me," is what got the fucker elected in the first place. Right?
Now, why in all of the universe, would you want a president who was just like you? Think about it. Look at yourself. You're flawed. You've got problems. You make mistakes. You're not as smart, attractive, ambitious, talented, friendly, or decent as you wish you were. You're not as good a Christian as you think you should be. You're not as hard a worker as the guy in the next cubicle. Bush is not those things too! In fact, in all reality, you are probably smarter, more attractive, more talented, much more friendly...though probably not more ambitious, than our current commander in chief.
So why is this? Why elect this guy?
I think I have a theory, and it's about who the president is trying to appeal to. It's not the whole story, but it's part of it. The reason the founders of this country were so eloquent has everything to do with the fact that they were a) all educated and b) only hung out with a bunch of other people who were very educated. They didn't hang out with people who were "just like me." They never had to deal with people like us. They never had to appeal to us. Just the opposite, in fact. They constantly had to make sure that their proverbial asses were covered--logically speaking. These people would tear you a new one if you weren't completely sure of what you were talking about. These people were all well versed in the art of rhetoric. They knew how to persuade intelligent people. If you can persuade a smart person, then the rest of the country, the cattle, are easy.
Today, partly because nobody has an attention span long enough to listen to an entire speech--and for this reason, I'm reasonably certain that no one will read this entire post--and partly because these candidates have to appeal to the masses, the stupid, moronic, uneducated masses, there is a unilateral lowering of the bar to meet that standard.
If you use a word like "defenestrate," as in "I would like to defenestrate the president," nobody will know what you're talking about. But if you say, "I would like to throw the president out of a window," then people will understand you. The diction is lower, even if the meaning is the same.
People are stupid, and our politicians are getting stupider to reflect that fact. And it's all your fault. Shame on you.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I never wanted it to go this far. I missed Countdown last Friday. But I found this. Now, maybe it's time to get angry, take up the political pen. It's downright frightening what this man is capable of. O'Relly, I mean.
One of my favorite articles by the infamous Maddox was this one. The title of the article says it all. Now, I don't think that Maddox is particularly great. I think his work is a little mis-directed, petty, and, while it all has excellent grammar, it isn't particularly insightful. He doesn't use his power for good, is what I'm saying. He's also devastatingly misogynistic. But to make the claim that Bill O'Reilly is a "big blubbering vagina," and have nearly two million people read it, is impressive to say the least.
The problem is that I think Maddox might actually be wrong. Papa Bear is not just a big blubbering vagina, he's a fucking monster. He calls J.K. Rowling a provocateur. Isn't this a case of the proverbial pot calling the proverbial kettle.... a provocateur?
Rowling, in the course of answering a casual question with a casual answer, "I always thought of Dumbledore as gay," has suddenly created a scandal. Now, in England, this is no big deal. No one probably cared. If they did, they'd be laughed at.
The bottom line is, Bill O'Reilly actually thinks--insofar as he thinks at all--that being tolerant of homosexuality is undesirable in America. Yeah. Seriously. He thinks that.
Dear readers, and friends, and anyone out there in cyberspace who enjoys a good laugh, some gentle satire, or, heaven forbid, the occasional act of sodomy, we need to do something about this. Now, the news directors at Fox News have distanced themselves from Bill O'Reilly, but he still has the ears of millions of Americans. When you have someone out there, who doesn't want to play nice, someone who is just downright mean, that person needs to be dealt with.
A boycott won't work--because anyone who would boycott that bastard already is. Murder is unethical--I repeat, don't kill him, we need him so we can study him. But there's gotta be something we can do.
Leave all suggestions in the comments section. I'm serious. He must be stopped.
Monday, October 22, 2007
The image, stolen from Wikipedia is of one Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. He was a naturalist in the 19th century and was one of the earliest proponents of evolution. The difference between his theory and Darwin's was the idea of when changes or adaptations occurred. Lamarck believed that changes occurring during the life time of a given animal would be passed on to it's young. So basically, if you're a giraffe, and you're constantly stretching your neck to get at higher leaves, then your children will have longer necks because your neck got infinitesimally longer throughout your life.
It turns out that Lamarck wasn't totally wrong. He was just not right in the way he thought.
Nova is the single best science show in the history of mankind. I got into an argument with a friend the other day about the idea of epigenetics. He had never heard of it, though I had just watched Nova's new documentary, Ghost in Your Genes.
Here's the deal. DNA is the blueprint for an organism. That much is certain. But there has to be a mechanism built into our cells that interprets that DNA and decides which bits of it to use. This mechanism is what's responsible for things like cell differentiation. It's why eye cells are different from heart cells are different from liver cells. Different bits of the DNA are turned on in each different type of tissue in your body. Basically, if the DNA--the genome--is the blueprint, then methylation and chromatin remodelling--the epigenome (literally "above the genome")--is the architect that interprets it.
Okay, but the crazy thing is that, as it turns out, some of these epigenetic features--sometimes those acquired during your lifetime--appear to be transgenerational. That is: they are passed down from one generation to the next. Your bad eating habits, in other words, could affect whether your grandchild gets diabetes.
Yeah. Fucked up.
DNA is largely static. It doesn't change much. It is very, very good at duplicating itself with near impossible accuracy. But it appears that natural selection has a place for nurture. It's like a quicker version of evolution. It's evolution on the fly that happens in the short term (short meaning hundreds of years rather than thousands or millions). It won't make new species, but it will change the way species are affected by their environment.
There's a lot of really interesting research into this stuff, and you'd be hard pressed to find a more frantically researched aspect of genetics in this day and age. I mean, a few years ago, when they were scrambling to finish up the Human Genome Project, they thought that they were inches from the key to understanding everything. They were wrong, of course.
It seems like the deeper you burrow down the rabbit hole, the deeper it appears to be.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
This is not a political blog.
I repeat: this is not a political blog.
That said, I'm planning on voting for Dennis Kucinich in the primaries. The reasons are varied, but most of them involve Obama being a pussy, Clinton being a...wussy, and everyone else being a cock biter.
Kucinich is not only the only candidate in the entire election who doesn't appear to base his stances on focus groups, but instead has the policy and voting record of..well...a person who isn't a fascist. He didn't vote for the Patriot Act. He wants to pull out of Iraq. That sort of thing. I don't like his stance on guns, but then, nobody's perfect.
But mostly, I want to vote for him, because he looks so damned much like a Vulcan.
Edit: I just googled "Kucinich is a Vulcan." Apparently, I'm not the first to make this observation. My favorite thing that I read was, "I just don't think America is ready for a Vulcan president."
Monday, October 08, 2007
The legal ramifications of using a Trademarked logo in an amateur blog notwithstanding, I want to talk today about McDonald's. Well, McDonald's and sex.
I don't know if you've heard about this, but it's a real doozy. The fact that the event--or events--has a Wikipedia page is telling. I mean, this is not small news.
And there are two very interesting things about the whole event. First of all, it is a smashing real-life reproduction of the Milgram Experiment. Basically, these store manager's have been duped into believing that whoever was on the other end of the line was an authority figure. I'm reiterating a lot of what was in the Wikipedia article, I know, but it's amzing that these morons let it go this far. Again, "Foot-in-the-door" effect notwithstanding, this is absurd! Not once, did the manager think anything that the caller requested was completely out of the realm of possibility for police procedure. Right down to forcing the poor girl to perform oral sex.
There are several layers of percieved authority here. First, there's the manager who doesn't question the guy on the phone--I wonder if it was on speaker phone--and then there was the girl who didn't question her manager, the guy who was fucking her face.
This is one of the hugest problems with modern society's obsessive need to be controlled. I don't know if I should be pissed off at the manager or the instigator for doing the things that they did, or the girl and the manager for allowing them to fucking do it. It's absurd.
It's a problem with perceived authority, and it's a problem with people who abuse that authority. It's the reason that most people should be mistrustful of cops or anyone who claims authority.
I have to hand it to the caller that he thought it through to the point where fast food restaurants would be his primary targets. Their rigid policy codes and whatnot makes it really hard for these lackeys--termed "managers"--to deal with anything out of the norm. They are easier to manipulate, not harder.
The other thing that I found remarkable about the whole story is how they caught the fucker. First, an employee dials *69, they find the pay phone that the guy used. The find the serial number of the calling card used. Traced the calling card to the store where it was sold--a Wal-Mart, no less--and then used the video surveillance tapes to find the sonofabitch himself.
How's that for Big Brother, huh? We don't need cameras in our houses, like Orwell thought. We just need them everywhere else.
On the plus side, the girl who was assaulted was awarded 6.1 million dollars for her trouble. Which just goes to prove, that you can still get rich while having your rights trampled and your self-respect shattered.