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August 8, 2005 - August 1, 2005

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Happy 60th
to the
Baby Boom



KABOOM
. If there's a single seminal moment for the post-war baby boom that produced the Not-So-Greatest-Generation, it's August 6th, 1945, when the United States unveiled its war-ending technology in Hiroshima, Japan.

The history may not be so important anymore, because nobody cares about history since the baby boomers reduced it to a pulpy list of crimes against political correctness. What is important is what happens now that the most narcissistic and self-indulgent generation in American history embarks on the great adventure of aging. It's not going to be pretty. The same folks who demanded that the world be remade in their image when they got to college in the '60s will insist -- just as they have in every other tedious phase and fad of the past 40 years -- that meeting their needs is all that matters. Look for the country to be transformed into some kind of senior citizen's amusement park, a 50 state implementation of St. Petersburg, Florida, with a wheelchair ramp at every strip club and free bus transportation to every reunion of septuagenarian Deadheads.

As for the rest of you, get ready to pay some real taxes in years to come. The baby boomers' appetite for drugs has always been legendary, and they're going to need pills for blood pressure, and body aches, and the pain of post-cosmetic surgery, and erections, and depression, and all the new syndromes that will be invented by a population of sissies who are growing old without ever having grown up. And they're going to want it all for free.

This is also a special day for the brat kids the baby boomers brought into being without actually raising them. The long cushy ride is over as of now. Your job is to drop whatever you're doing and make sure that mom and dad get the attention they've  always always wanted and just can't get anymore from shopping, and showing off, and chasing the coolest new trends. They won't have the energy for all that. So they'll sit there, and complain, and demand something, anything, from you to divert them one more time from the emptiness inside.

But if you want, you can pretend that all this isn't happening, because as they enter their sixties and their seventies, the cleverest of the boomers will be sitting down at their computers to prove they weren't really the worst generation, but the best, because it's so much easier to make it up after the fact than live it for real. Yes, there's an orgy of self-congratulation to come, and you'll all have the unforgettable experience of paying through the nose for the final round of boomer instant gratification while increasingly ancient anchormen and other doddering celebrities exalt the beauty of oldness and demand the respect for elders they scorned throughout their lives.

Has everybody caught the mood? I hope so, because now it's time for all of us to lift our voices in song. Are you ready?

"Happy birthday to you... Happy birthday to you..."

Where is everybody? Why aren't you singing?

You're going to have to do better than that. You really are.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Mr. Daniel Ruben for joining in the celebration-- welcome to blinq. visitors. Feel free to take a look around.




Thursday, August 04, 2005


American Waugh

Denis Leary

THE 9/11 FILES. After all the bluster and hype about Over There, it's time to focus on what really is the best series on television, a show that could easily be named Over Here. Denis Leary's Rescue Me is probably the finest work yet produced for the small screen. The credit belongs to Leary because he writes, produces, and stars in the show and does all three jobs with brilliance and subtlety. The view he gives us of New York firefighters is comical, pitiless, scathing, and yet -- to use a word much abused in recent times -- realistic. In the landscape of Leary's creation, firefighters are dumb as rocks, juvenile in their relations with women, borderline sociopathic in their personal lives, and ridiculous when they attempt to explain their stupid behaviors to civilians. They are also the men who charge into burning buildings to save anyone and everyone inside. Despite a long string of attempts by Martin Scorsese and HBO, the holy grail of a riveting story based on asshole characters had seemed unattainable to me.  Somehow, Leary seems to achieve this impossible goal with ease. He's not a stand-up comic who does other things. He's a master.

Tommy Gavin, the character Leary plays in Rescue Me, is selfish, choleric, violent, abusive to women, friends, and family, almost incapable of self control in any setting, and -- on top of this, not because of this -- irretrievably damaged by the events of 9/ll, in which he lost firefighter family and friends in large numbers. I didn't see the first season, but it hardly matters. What he succeeds in showing us is that there are men for whom every minute not spent in the life-and-death situations they were born to face is simply killing time, including marriage, fatherhood, and everything else the rest of us consider all of life.

The miracle of Rescue Me is that Leary's writing and acting seduce us into accepting the appalling personal frailties of firefighters and even understanding them. He doesn't use music to gloss over the rough spots or to highlight the heroism. He uses humor, an intuitive razorlike skill with dialogue and delivery, and patience -- the willingness to let the pathos or absurdity of any situation make itself felt over time rather than under trick lighting or ham-handed theatrics. To find a counterpart to the writing in these scripts, one must look all the way back to Evelyn Waugh, who possessed the sublime nastiness to inform us of the death of Lord Tangent (son of Lady Circumference) in a dependent clause dozens of pages after the glancing shot of a starter's pistol dealt him a mortal blow. That's the esthetic at work here. Big events can be trivial, and trivial events enormous. Gavin's jilted girlfriend confronts him in front of the firehouse and threatens to scream in order to embarrass him. He tells her to go ahead. She lets loose like the heroine of a horror movie and -- eventually -- firefighters come outside, greet her merrily, and disappear inside. None of them ask Tommy for an explanation afterwards. Emotional fireworks are routine and unimportant here. But a firefighter who overhears his son having gay sex is stunned into speechless fury -- not by the sex, but by the discovery that his son is not, as he had been promised, the "man" of the couple. In Rescue Me, all depends on the perspective of the lunkhead characters, who talk with one another in stark but stupid terms about even the most intimate and embarrassing incidents in their lives.

A mentally challenged firefighter develops a morbid fear that his penis is somehow deadly after two successive girlfriends die. His supervisor in counseling him begins by remarking that the firefighter has a small sliver of brain matter floating around somewhere in his skull and hopes the observation doesn't give offense. "No offense taken," responds the young man, without the least change of expression. He is still waiting for advice, which comes quickly. The problem, the supervisor tells him, is his dating pool, which should be drained dry, filled in, and paved over with asphalt.

"Then there's nothing the matter with my cock?"

"No. Get back out there."

The next step is absolutely typical of Rescue Me, which includes in its regular cast a hallucinated Jesus who haunts Leary's character but is refreshingly tongue-tied about the meaning of life's constant tragedies. Jesus torments Leary for a buffoonish performance at an AA meeting, but there's nobody on hand to chastise the dumb firefighter when he accompanies a Vicodin-addicted colleague to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and discovers that it's an "ocean of pussy," a panoply of ex-models, hookers, and party girls, all vulnerable to the charms of a firefighter willing to make up stories about a crack-addicted past. Which he immediately proceeds to do.

In fact, every single kind of bad and unfair treatment of women is on constant display in Rescue Me, and the firefighters' understanding of this unending quest in their lives never rises above the level of eighth grade boys. But then Tommy Gavin gives mouth to mouth to a little boy who has stopped breathing after receiving third degree burns to his face, and he registers no emotion when another firefighter tells him the boy's lips are still glued to his own. The show then resists the temptation to play for sympathy when Gavin goes to the hospital to sit by the critically burned boy's bed. Instead, when the mother leaves for a moment, Jesus appears in her chair, ducks the question about what such tragedies mean, and offers to "put in a word" for the boy's life if Gavin will reconsider his dismissal of God.

In response to the proposition, Gavin says, "I want full use of the hands."

Nothing is sacred in Rescue Me. Not even the PC standards of our day. A supervisor berates a female probationer who disregarded orders at a fire by calling her a "stupid twat." Predictably, she threatens legal action when he refuses to apologize.  Then she is made to realize that namecalling is a part of the life of a firefighter, and the offender makes everyone pay for his crime by refusing to lie about what he said. All the firefighters, including the "victimized" woman, are sentenced to sensitivity training.

That's how the show strikes me overall -- as a kind of sensitivity training about a kind of man who has become unfashionable and even despised, despite the fact that we need and depend upon him. He's rude, crude, often drunk, frequently obtuse, coarse in even the most rudimentary social occasions, but when the terrible thing happens, he's the one who will disregard the danger and battle his way into further danger to pull our sorry asses out of the fire.

I'm getting the lesson because it's being delivered with such flawless timing and unflinching honesty. I urge all of you to enroll for the rest of the course, no matter how long it lasts.




Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Air America:
The Serial Action Drama!


Action, action, action.

HOLLYWOOD. Just moments after the latest Air America scandal, Steven Botchco Productions is beginning production of the film epic liberals have been waiting for. At last, the true story of heroic resistance against the evil fascists who rule America is being told with the full power of Hollywood stars and special effects. As principled as the West Wing, as exciting as Con Air, and as up-to-the minute as Over There, Air America the Serial will thrill you and amaze you. The list of stars is as long as your arm -- Nicholas Cage, George Clooney, Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Randi Rhodes, Michael Moore, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Charlton Heston, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many many more.

But the best news of all is that InstaPunk readers won't even have to wait for the TV debut. We have the storyboards (just as we did with Valerie Flame, DC Undercover), and we're publishing the first episode HERE today.

Enjoy. And stay tuned.

UPDATE. Mr. Austin Bay has new information about Air America's, er, financing problems. You can catch up on that here.

UPDATE 8-5-05. Besides starring in our dramatic version of the story, Michelle Malkin is taking the lead in pursuing the facts of Air America's funding shenanigans.

 





Over There -- Part II


UPDATE. Yesterday, I reported watching the first episode of Over There and deferred to a milblogger whose analysis I respected. Today, Glenn Reynolds links to the Opinionated Bastard, who is inclined to defend the show. Under the heading "the Soldiers Are Wrong," he defends the program as an example of a venerable genre:

In WWII, Frank Capra refined the war picture genre to a high degree. A war picture needs certain elements to be true to the genre:

Only a few characters. The audience has to bond with the characters so having more then 4-5 characters diminishes that bond. In military terms, this means a platoon size is ideal. Naturally, this doesn't always make sense in reality. Why was a captain commanding a platoon in Saving Private Ryan?

Those few characters have to in aggregate represent all of America. So there will be a College Guy, an ethnic, (these days) a woman, a WASP, etc. This is one of the most Capraesqe parts of the genre; Capra specifically intended his films to be propaganda; the audience had to feel the platoon represented a representative slice of America.

Sergeants are tough bastards. Officers (especially lieutenants) are idiots. This isn't strictly necessary, but comes from two great truths: Americans hate authority, and sergeants have won more battles for America then any other type of soldier.

So does Over There have those elements? Of course it does. As a TV program, viewers have to be able to tune into any of these early shows and “get it” immediately. So the characters are going to be stereotypical and shallow at first.

Are the tactics vastly oversimplified? Of course. Complicated tactics won't be shown unless they have dramatic purpose. Similarly, on CSI, they can get DNA tests done in a day, where in real life they take 2 weeks.

So give the show a break guys. I think that while you'll always have problems with the technical accuracy, I think that Over There is going to turn out to be great TV.

This time I can base my points on a knowledge of the movies, not war. I disagree with Opinionated's argument. Note this description, via NPR, of the show's stated purpose:

The new, realist TV drama Over There focuses on a unit of U.S. soldiers and their lives on the ground in Iraq....

For two years, American TV viewers have watched the real-life drama of the war in Iraq unfold on the evening news. On Wednesday night, a fictional version will debut on cable channel FX...

It's the first series based on a war in progress and is the latest from Emmy-winning TV producer Steven Bochco.

Bochco's credits include NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues. Like much of his earlier work, Over There provides a gritty, emotional glimpse into the lives of its characters.

More is being promised here than a genre piece. In dramatic terms, "genre" and "realist" tend to be opposites rather than complements. Most of old Hollywood's productions were genre pieces, to the extent that those which were not tended to be lumped into the minority category "film noir." Westerns, musicals, sci fi adventures, and romances --as well as a great many war movies --were meant to entertain and captivate rather than educate. The exceptions among war movies of the WWII period were few and controversial. "The Best Years of Our Lives," for example, was deemed highly political and even subversive in some quarters. That's what realism can do to you in the film business.

Moreover, the word "realist" is not to be taken lightly in the context of an ongoing conflict. It's true that Capra began his war movie work during World War II, but I doubt very much that his purpose was to provide a "realistic" or "gritty emotional glimpse" of his characters. He was helping to sell a particular point of view on the war, which in his case happened to be that the war had to be fought and won. I believe many engaged in like endeavors at the time were not even squeamish about using the term 'propaganda.' Realism was not on the agenda for two reasons: 1) there was no precedent for filmed depictions of the true violence of war (This was more the province of the Russians, but even Alexander Nevsky pales beside Braveheart.) 2) The truly unbelievable savagery of the combat at Normandy, Iwo Jima, etc, would have undermined the successful sale of the pro-war message.

So what is it that Opinionated Bastard is telling us? That formulaic plots and characters festooned with quite realistic violence enacted in overly simplified combat situations can nevertheless be great TV. Great as entertainment perhaps, but certainly not much more emotionally valid than a 40s tearjerker starring Bette Davis. Unless we can be very very sure about the filmmakers' underlying purpose  -- because only his integrity can protect us from the manipulations made possible by easy shortcuts like the use pf 40s style "Brooklyn bomber crews" or 60s style "misfit Vietnam squads." We have to have some way of knowing that he has NOT picked out the emotion he wants to sell in advance and proceeded to fake his way to a cheap result.

When I read the catalog of misrepresentation and fakery presented by Faces from the Front, I can't help suspecting that Bochco may have as simplistic an agenda for his cheap tricks as Frank Capra did. It's not much of a leap from there to suspect that what Bochco is using his genre conventions for is to convince Americans that this war -- like just about every other war in the left's opinion -- is too costly and morally ambiguous to "waste" any more lives on.

I grant that not employing genre techniques might prove exceptionally challenging and even daunting. But the word "great" is usually reserved for rising to just such challenges.

The Opinionated one is fully entitled to his opinion. But I thought he deserved some responsive feedback.




Tuesday, August 02, 2005


TV War

Over There.

SOLDIERS. There's a new TV show on the FX Channel. It's called Over There and it purports to show us what it's really like for our service men and women in Iraq. The producer is Steven Bochco, father of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, among other television projects. Given the famous Hollywood antipathy to the Iraq War and to the Bush administration's policies in general, we might be excused for wondering just how Bochco would choose to tilt our perspective on the military. Like many, I watched the pilot episode and -- not having been in Iraq -- experienced a vague sense that we were being invited to see the conflict as an urban Vietnam and the soldiers fighting it as somewhat helpless victims of their own leadership.

I had expected to come away with a sour taste in my mouth and I did. That's not much of a basis for doing a review. So, I was glad to see that a milblogger had analyzed the show from a professional viewpoint at some depth. He cited at least one plus, the uniforms, "which, right down to the black socks used to cover goggles, were spot on. "

He didn't like much else, though:

Unfortunately, the costume designer is the only person who seems to have actually studied the war, pictures of the war or video of the war.

As someone who has been over there it was easy to see that if Steven Bochco hired a military consultant, he didn't pay attention to him or, if they did listen to him, that consultant should be fired. 

In Bochco's depiction of the war, the tactics are wrong, the dialogue is wrong, the set-ups are wrong and the scenarios are ridiculous.

The reason it's a valuable review to read in full is that he is extremely specific about the differences between the show and reality. He assesses the scenario, the characterizations of soldiers and officers, and then systematically enumerates the errors in tactics. I'll offer one representative excerpt:

Despite the complete unreality of not obliterating the building, in the fake war on FX, there is only one fire team of grunts and two female Motor Transport soldiers as the base of fire to hold the cordon around the mosque.

The standoff appears to last almost 36 hours, complete with negotiations with the terrorists inside the mosque.  If something dragged on that long, the two female Motor Transport soldiers would be relieved and resume their normal duties with their logistics unit, and a whole company of grunts would be called in to form an 'L' cordon around the building where every perimeter side could be covered with direct fire.

The L cordon would consist of flat foot grunts, Humvees with heavy guns and probably some armor.

In a high profile situation, as depicted in 'Over There,' Apache gun ships would be on station and jets on station as well. 

In the fake war on FX, a high-tech communications unit is brought in to transmit the negotiations.  In the real war, this would result in a secure coil/compound being set up.  With the addition of another Platoon sized element and possibly an outer cordon.

In the real war, one, five-man fire team would not be the only grunts on the scene. A fire team may be in an area off on their own for a while, but once the bullets started flying, every swinging soldier in the area would be converging on the action.(1)

In the FX war, the soldiers are given orders to advance towards the building.  So, in keeping with the 'reality' of this 'gripping' drama, they all stand up on-line and walk towards the building.  Wrong. 

A fire team advancing over open terrain towards a building they took fire from would be in 10 yards sprints, one team member at a time.

And so on. Over There is supposed to help educate us about the real war. Maybe it can help do that if we take the opportunity to study critiques like this one in depth.

I have nothing more to say, except that I urge you all to read the whole entry at Faces From the Front, and pass it on to everyone who expresses any interest whatsoever in Over There. It's the least we can do.




Monday, August 01, 2005


Hmmmmm.

Tempel 1

THE DREXELITES. It's not often that an amateur can get a clear glimpse inside the ongoing combat between official science and what has come to be called alternative science. By accident I just stumbled on one of these and thought it might be fun to share.

I was looking for eccentric news items -- there's only so much we can all take about Valerie Plame and Judge Roberts day after day -- and following a series of "weird" links, I came to a site called Surfiing the Apocalypse, which publishes short features on everything from UFOs to New World Order conspiracies to oddball relics like the Voynich manuscript. Buried among what were mostly provocative teasers I found a rather lengthy piece recapitulating the troubled and troubling history of Immanuel Velikovsky, who brought the fury of academic science on his head by proposing that Venus had caused worldwide catastrophe in ancient human history. His cause has now been taken up, it seems, by "plasma physicists" who are turning away from traditional cosmological theory to something called the electric universe. I gather this is a pretty radical model and pretty darn unacceptable to the NASA and university hotshots.

Reading along, I suddenly hit a specific prediction about an event that was still in the future when the piece was written:

On July 4, 2005, the Deep Impact probe will reach comet Tempel 2 and fire an 800-pound projectile into the comet’s nucleus. NASA’s comet investigators do not doubt that hidden beneath the surface of comets is a great abundance of water ice. How else could comet tails be produced, except by ices sublimating in the heat of the Sun?

The revolutionary electric Sun model set forth by Juergens in the early 70’s included a view of comets as electric discharge phenomena. If the Sun is a glow discharge at the center of a radial electric field, then comets moving on highly elliptical orbits through this electric field will experience increasing stresses that can only be relieved through electrical arcing, removing material and accelerating it away from the nucleus, along the path of solar magnetic field lines.

Though electrical experts cannot categorically say there are no volatiles beneath the surface of comets, they all consider it most likely that the projectile will strike a solid rock and not a pile of ice and rubble. According to Thornhill, some of the water we normally detect in comet tails appears to be a result of electrical exchange within the coma of the comet. Oxygen is removed from the negatively charged comet nucleus by electric arcs, before uniting energetically with the positively charged hydrogen ions of the solar wind. The surfaces of the comets, Borrelly and Wild 2, which gave us the best close-ups, were bone dry.

So the Deep Impact mission could prove to be an acid test. The electric theorists have made their position clear, and there won’t be much wiggle room for the conventional “dirty snowball” hypothesis. If water is not observed to explode from the surface at the projectile’s impact, a domino effect will be set loose. An absence of water would mean there is no mainstream model left, only the electric model would remain.

Well, I thought. V-e-e-e-ry interesting. It's the first of August. Deep Impact is now in the past. I should be able to find out pretty quickly if the electric universe folks are as loony as the da Vinci Code crowd. I googled Deep Impact and Tempel 1. Here's what I found first:

US space agency (Nasa) scientists are celebrating after seeing a probe crash into the heart of a comet.

The washing machine-sized "impactor" collided with Comet Tempel 1 at a relative speed of 37,000km/h, throwing up a huge plume of icy debris.

The probe's mothership, the Deep Impact spacecraft, watched the event from a safe distance, sending images to Earth.

"We hit it just exactly where we wanted to," said an ecstatic Dr Don Yeomans, a Nasa mission scientist.

"The impact was bigger than I expected, and bigger than most of us expected. We've got all the data we could possibly ask for."

Comets - giant "dirty snowballs", as some have called them - are believed to contain materials that have remained largely unchanged since the formation of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago.

Scientists hope that by getting "under the skin" of Comet Tempel 1, they can gain new information on the Solar System's original composition and perhaps even how life emerged in our corner of the Universe.

This sure didn't sound good for the electric universe predictions. There was a "huge plume of icy debris." And the BBC repeated the standard description of comets as "dirty snowballs." I wondered if the electric universe set had anything to say about the defeat of their theory. Their website is named Thunderbolts.info. There was not one but a pair of recent articles about the Deep Space probe. The upshot?

Jul 15, 2005
The Missing Water of Comet Tempel 1

We have long suggested that, after Deep Impact, scientists would be scratching their heads over the lack of subsurface water—the last hope of the dirty snowball theory. Early results confirm this prediction.

Early in the morning of July 3, we registered our predictions for Deep Impact (July 4), when a widely heralded “impactor” would strike the nucleus of Comet Tempel 1. We presented these predictions based on the electric comet hypothesis as interpreted by Wallace Thornhill and other members of the Thunderbolts crew. To the best of our knowledge, we set forth the most specific and detailed scientific predictions offered by any group in anticipation of the event.

We stated our purpose explicitly—

“With the imminent arrival of the ‘Deep Impact’ spacecraft at the comet Tempel 1, it is time to test competing theories on the nature of comets. The predictions and lines of reasoning offered here will set the stage for future analysis of the ‘electric comet’ model”.

It has now been almost two weeks since we posted these predictions, and the Deep Impact investigative team has made it clear that it could be many weeks before an analysis of certain crucial details will be released. Yet information already disclosed provides a good sense as to how well the electric comet model has performed against the “dirty snowball” model of popular theory.

In this and following Pictures of the Day we shall begin an analysis of specific results.

We stated: “An abundance of water on or below the surface of the nucleus (the underlying assumption of the “dirty snowball” hypothesis) is unlikely”. Though this was never a deal killer for the electric model, the absence of sufficient water in a comet is a deal killer for the dirty snowball model. We wrote: “In fact none of the electrical theorists will be surprised if the impactor exposes a subsurface with little or no ices.

In a July 8 press release, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics summarized the early findings with the headline, “Deep Impact Was a Dust-up, Not a Gusher“.

Smithsonian astronomers had monitored the impact using the ground-based Submillimeter Array (SMA) in Hawaii and NASA's orbiting Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS). Early reports showed “only weak emission from water vapor and a host of other gases that were expected to erupt from the impact site. The most conspicuous feature of the blast was brightening due to sunlight scattered by the ejected dust”. This was not what they had expected by any means.

"It's pretty clear that this event did not produce a gusher," said SWAS principal investigator Gary Melnick of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "The more optimistic predictions for water output from the impact haven't materialized, at least not yet."

Astronomer Charlie Qi (CfA) also expressed surprise at these results. "Theories about the volatile layers below the surface of short-period comets are going to have to be revised," Qi said. Was he raising a question about the underlying model here? No, he was only “deepening” the contradictions. The impact result, he said, “indicates that these effects [presence of water] could be much deeper.”

So the crisis for standard comet theory grows. Proponents of the dirty snowball model had already been forced into an untenable position by prior discoveries of dry comet surfaces. So they began to speculate about water buried beneath the surfaces—a speculation that only increased the difficulty for models having to explain why observed ices in the Jovian and Saturnian system do not produce explosive jets while comets at the same distances do.

Only recently, some astronomers abandoned the phrase “dirty snowballs” and began calling comets “icy dirtballs”. The dirt, they said, was on the surface, and the water was underneath. Strangely, this shift in theory was never accompanied by any attempt to reckon with the problems inherent in placing an insulating layer around ice which, even when directly exposed to the Sun (as on the planet Mars at Tempel’s distance from the Sun) does not behave the way their models required.

It was hoped that Deep Impact would show that sufficient water existed beneath the surface. By excavating material from the comet's interior, they could rescue the theory. But it didn’t happen. “SWAS operators were puzzled by the lack of increased water vapor from Tempel 1”. In fact there was no change in measured water after the impact. Another observation from the Odin telescope in Sweden found that the total amount of water appeared to decrease after the impact, probably because of the injection of quantities of dry dust.

There's more for those who are interested, including additional predictions about what subsequent NASA analysis will uncover. And here's the other Thunderbolts article on Deep Impact.

Two things are intriguing here. First, that the limited mass media coverage of the event seems to have been tailored to the traditional theory and discloses little that might be unsettling to our high school cosmology. Second, that the account of the dispute between traditional cosmologists and electric universe theorists seems strangely parallel with what is happening in the field of evolutionary science: an old guard zealously and ferociously protects a very old theory from any major impact by newer scientific observations, discoveries, and hypotheses. The proponents of heretical ideas appear to be consigned to the muddy waters occupied by crackpots and paranoids, although their content seems much more substantial than wishful thinking.

I have no idea at all whether the electric universe is a valid theory or not. But I do see that its advocates are behaving like scientists -- making verifiable predictions in advance and permitting their theory to be judged by the results.

Just how much of the science that is supposed to be settled and so true as to be fact is actually besieged and frightened and desperate?

I can hear the know-it-alls readying their pipe bombs already...
 
UPDATE. Yup. here they come. For all of you are clicking through from the Cathouse Blog or whatever you call it, take a look here before you go.
 





Baby Dawk

Papa Dawk & Baby Dawk

DON'T BREAK THE CHAIN. Just over a week ago I wrote a little essay about evolution that produced the results I prognosticated.

I'll predict that if any evolutionists read this piece, they'll attack me in one or more of three ways. 1) They'll get personal immediately, calling me an idiot, a moron, a religious nut, etc. 2) They'll deny my right to discuss the subject at all because I don't have a degree in evolutionary biology, as if freedom of speech were now subject in the scientific world to a kind of poll tax. 3) They'll find one or several errors, or anything that might be interpreted as an error, to argue that this makes the whole discussion invalid. But it isn't. They can patronize and condescend to me all they want, but not one of them can persuasively explain the process by which wild plants became useful domestic crops. I'll keep my powder dry on that one till later.

Subsequent comments suggest that I am at least scientist enough to make accurate predictions about the responses of the orthodoxy. Then I discovered that InstaPunk was being scrutinized by a high priest of science so archetypal that he will hereinafter be designated Baby Dawk for his intellectual and personality resemblance to the Wild Boor of Evolution, Richard Dawkins. Of course, Baby Dawk is Icelandic rather than English, but he certainly has the sly sneering hauteur down to a tee. Here's what he writes about his relationship with students:

But, I, as matter of an ideological absolute, do often make many of the students feel uncomfortable, if not actually threatened; my actions lead to some students receiving lower grades, because I insist that some questions have unique answers, as determined by me, independent of the student's beliefs or past educational experience. I do this as a matter of personal philosophy; I feel strongly that their educational experience would be incomplete and inadequate if I did not push them to face these issues, and to realise that their knowledge may be incomplete or faulty.

He does all this for Penn State, home of the Nittany Lions, Cuntfest, and five national titles as the number one party school east of the Mississippi.

What put him on my trail was a piece I did months ago about how much fun it would be to reform American colleges and universities with M1 tanks. Baby Dawk was not amused:

A wannabe instapunk suggests an Operation Academic Freedom in May 2005.

Tanks, shmanks. An M1A has about as much chance against Harvard as the instapunk has outarguing a Professor of Women Studies.

Select Committees are the True Weapons of Choice in Operation Academic Freedom.

With Penn State issuing his paychecks, I could certainly understand why he's terrified of Womens Studies professors. But he wasn't ready to stop there. He had also glanced at my current post for ten seconds or so and therefore understood it and me in pitiless detail:

How cute, "instapunk" is a creationist too. Loser.

It would do no good to point out, I'm sure, that he drew his inference from a piece that contained the sentence, "I'll clarify the point I'm making by explaining that I believe the Creationists are dead wrong in their whole approach to the problem, and I believe the evolutionists are substantially wrong about process." Which makes me a creationist. I see. Such reductionism applied to a piece whose principal purpose was to suggest that there might be some worthwhile middle ground between the two polarities of the question was a perfect demonstration of the irrational tunnel vision of both creationists and evolutionary biologists.

So I owe Baby Dawk a huge thank you. Every snide superior wisecrack is another underscore of my point that we are dealing with two rigid orthodoxies here -- both committed less to the truth than to, say, legbreaking.

Today, I dared to write about another subject I don't have a PhD. in  (such nerve, don't you know, from one of the unwashed. It must rankle awfully). That one's here in case you somehow missed it. I had a hunch that it might rub Baby Dawk the wrong way and it did. Here's his take:

Astronomy gets punk'd

The interesting thing about crackpots is that they're consistent in their whackiness [sic].

instapunk, having disposed of evolution, here explains why we need to worry about astronomy - I have to confess I don't quite get the jump from Deep Impact to cosmology - but then I am part of the problem.

Strangely, the dispute between "traditional" cosmologists and the "electric universe" proponents does mirror the debate between evolutionsts and creationsts; just not in the way instapunk seems to think.

BTW both UVES and XMM Newton detected water/OH from C/Tempel-1 - with flux increasing post-impact.

The interesting thing about his little potshot is that if he teaches astrophysics (as he seems to) and "doesn't get the jump from Deep Impact to cosmology," he really is part of the problem. I'm not pretending to be a scientist, but he is, and it's his job to know even the wildest speculations in his field. His students, after all, are amateurs and may actually possess enough curiosity to investigate areas of thought he regards as the fringe. When I look at political affairs, I certainly don't pretend that the crazy left doesn't exist and doesn't have a perspective (Sorry, B.D. if I just chunked another of your sacred cows, but, yeah, Papa Dawk qualifies there too).

The other alternative -- there's always more than one, don't you know -- is that he's sandbagging, that he knows damn well what the link is between Deep Impact and the possible result that comets are made of rock rather than ice. Which would mean, of course, that just as with evolution, he's so superior to everyone and everything that he can't bring himself to entertain a different thought for a nanosecond. That's a real intellectual for you.

So I owe him yet another thank you for proving that some stereotypes really are dead accurate and unintentionally amusing to all the punks of the world who don't give a rat's ass what the Swarthmorons think. If they do.

UPDATE 8-3-05. Baby Dawk didn't like me using his picture without linking to the picture-page on his blog. Elsewhere this can be considered sucking up other people's bandwidth. This makes me a coward apparently.. (I'd love to have a dime for every graphic that's been swiped from my site by "friendly" blogs.) Anyway. I hate to distress the toffs. We now have a new graphic, created by me, which makes it a work of art. I think he'll like it. They're both exceptionally beautiful gents. Something about those mischievous eyes and rugged togs, don't you know? Swarthmorons.PS.1-39.




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