Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 15, 2008 - May 8, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Bright Spot Amidst the Darkness

There's finally going to be partying on the moon!

. I can't believe how cool this is:

Russia and Europe may team up for moon flights

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Europe are teaming up to build a spaceship which will fly astronauts to the moon, Russia said on Wednesday, although the European Space Agency struck a more cautious note.

The first test flight is set for 2015 and the first manned flight is planned for 2018, Russian space agency Roskosmos said.

"The European Space Agency (ESA) and Roskosmos both have the technologies and unique experience in designing various space systems to be able to create jointly a hi-tech vehicle," Roskosmos said on its website (

"(This would) enable us to carry crews of up to six people to near-earth and lunar orbits." Roskosmos said the craft would allow "expeditions to the moon" but did not say whether landings were envisaged.

Russia's single-use Soyuz, lately prone to risky landings, has borne the brunt of carrying crews to the International Space Station while U.S. space shuttles are set to be retired in 2010.

The ESA was more cautious about the plan.

Forget the caution. This is the time for an all-out effort. The Apollo program expired of boredom. We spent billions (and billions) of dollars sending astronauts to the moon, and what did they do? They hit golf balls and took polaroids of each other jumping up and down. That's not what the Russians or the French would do. If they're going to jump, they're going to see just how high they can get -- and what positions they can achieve. It's long past time for wild sex in outer space, and some serious git-down-and-dirty partying.

It's what earth needs, let's be honest. Once the degenerate Europeans and the crazed, passionate Russians discover that there really is a new kick in life, it will jump-start the whole ennui-sickened western culture into a brand new Renaissance. Who will care about Global Warming when you can jaunt to a moon colony for a champagne and vodka weekend with the world's most amoral sybarites? To hell with Vegas. What happens on the moon stays on the moon, 240,000 miles from the nearest nagging wife or priggish church. For sure. And screw recycling. Who cares where you toss your bottles and used condoms? It's not like some London bobby or Ohio State Trooper is going to show up and write you a ticket.

Granted, there may be some technology issues. The Russian approach to space travel has always been "bring a big wrench and whack whatever doesn't work," while the French and other western Europeans make everything out of aluminum and tut at you when normal use results in a multi-thousand-Euro breakdown. They'll work it out. Maybe the Europeans will finally learn how to make everything mechanical out of pig iron and concrete, and the Russians will learn not to guzzle a quart of vodka before they attempt delicate repairs. Something. It's all going to be good.

Better, anyway, and far more realistic than listening to Obama and McCain swapping visions of the Utopia they will deliver in the next four years.

That's really too awful to contemplate. Bring on the Endless Lunar Party!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Democrat Mystery

The DNC Pharaoh.

THE WORM THAT TURNED. I'm not trying to be a provocateur here. I don't much care what the Democrats do to extricate themselves from the nomination mess they're struggling with. It's probably irrelevant to the outcome of the general election. My own conclusion is that John McCain doesn't really want to be president. Otherwise, he wouldn't keep punching conservatives in the mouth with his brass-knuckled Hispanic-pandering immigration policies and loony-toon "Global Warming Tour." He'd rather be maverick than president, and just maybe, age is more of a factor than even Obama hopes. It's beginning to look as if the 2008 Republican nominee is merely a less lovable version of Bob Dole, secretly subverting the race for the nation's highest office into a kind of shining last moment in the Indian Summer sun. Not getting elected will be the consummate relief, immediately followed by a self-satisfied retirement into celebrated semi-private life.

Nobody seems to hold it against Bob Dole that he never tried to win and thus threw away a very real opportunity to prevent the ignominy of Clinton's Lewinski term. McCain knows this and probably counts on the likelihood that his own defeat will be blamed, like everything else that's happened in the 21st century, on one George W. Bush. Wouldn't that be the easiest vindication of all for an old man in the grip of a festering eight-year-long grudge?

Only time will tell if that's an accurate read of the situation, but at the moment it hardly matters to the Democrats, who fear they might be flinging away their best opportunity to win the White House since Bill Clinton rose like a golden mirage from the tumbleweeds of Arkansas. And given that fear, why all the bile and irrational anger directed at Hillary rather than where it properly belongs?

I'm referring, of course, to Howard Dean. It was his leadership of the Democratic National Committee which designed the 2008 nomination process for the express purpose of ensuring that Democrats would pick their candidate early. He was the one who front-loaded the primaries so dramatically that individual states like Florida and Michigan, afraid of being left out of the big circus, rebelled against his authoritarian rule and scheduled primary dates in defiance of Dean's grand Big-Brother dictates.

And like any overweening anti-democratic despot, he punished them for their disobedience. Michigan. And Florida. Think about that for a minute.

Florida. The state in which the Democratic Party made its absurd last stand in 2000, determined to rewrite settled election law on the fly in order to insure against some phantom but absolutely unacceptable disenfranchisement of voters who couldn't read a ballot or marshal the motor skills needed to punch out a chad. Florida. A major state which has been so close to a dead-even Democrat-Republican split that many of us in other parts of the country could be forgiven for believing that the home of Disney World actually decides the outcome of the presidential race for the rest of us. But Dean in his wisdom chose to piss off Florida Democrats by disqualifying their delegates.

The result has been the classic unintended consequences of most overly ambitious Democrat schemes. You change a process too much, too suddenly, and what you get is chaos. The Hillary campaign guessed wrong about all the new variables in the nomination race. What was intended to secure her early coronation proved to be her undoing. The Obama campaign guessed right, but not because they were brilliant. Instead, they were maximally cautious. They knew it would be impossible to stop Hillary's Panzer divisions in their tracks during the initial offensive. So they decided instead to survive the first wave and mount a massive, careful, and comprehensive infantry assault that could win, eventually, by attrition. Organize in every state, contend in every caucus, put troops in every foxhole. No genius involved. Just ground-pounder determination. Which, by virtue of its ubiquity, is almost always everywhere that luck strikes when it does. And so it came to pass. Hence, Obamessiah, the cold and remote new divinity of the party of the common man.

Now, though, the great strategy of Howard Dean has landed the Democrats in a quagmire that may not kill them but will still cause them many sleepless nights and the necessity of accepting wholly unnecessary risks. That's why the current profusion of articles demanding Hillary's withdrawal and indicting her hubris is so perverse, so bizarre, so laughable. It's not her fault the Democrats are about to nominate a candidate as weak as Michael Dukakis and as doomed to failure if elected as Jimmy Carter. It's Howard Dean's fault. Hillary is the stronger candidate. You can see it in the new tone of grudging respect and even affection (gasp!) being expressed for her by conservatives who have despised her since she first appeared at Bill's side in the '92 campaign. It's unthinkable. And yet it's a function of the fact that campaigning across America has made her warmer, more human, more attractive and sympathetic than she ever was as First Lady or carpetbagger senator. Even diehard Clinton enemies are contemplating the possibility that a Hillary presidency might be survivable.

To be fair, it was also Howard Dean's bungling that forced Hillary to dig deeper into herself to find an authentic connection to her fellow Americans. But in the same stroke, he has made it impossible for his hungry hungry party to nominate a candidate who has genuine appeal beyond the ivory tower millionaires, the left-wing crazies, and the always monolithic black vote.

Why isn't the Democrat party establishment furious as hell about this state of affairs? Why aren't there as many choleric columns about Howard Dean as about Hillary Clinton? Is it that the real problem of Democrats is that they're just too stupid to understand anything?

Your guess is as good as mine. Camille.

I guess.

Go to Hell.

You young'uns don't know the nightmare to come.

THE POLAR BEAR SCAM. One of my younger email correspondents -- with whom I've had a bruising ongoing debate about the meaning of conservatism -- recently threw me an unexpected bouquet but asked me a troubling question: "I think you're amazing, although not old. What is up with this new old fart/curmudgeon pose? I'm being taught parliamentary procedure and political organizing by a team of people that were Goldwater and Reagan national delegates. They're oldddd. Maybe you're just wiser than you thought you'd be at your age, although the McCain thing makes one doubt."

Well, he's winning on the McCain front. (Does that make me youthfully flexible?) But it doesn't answer the real question. Why do I feel so old in the current political environment? And I do. Even though I'm not racing to find a wheelchair in which I can ride out the rest of my years and still feel quite perky and vital most days, I also feel like a yellowing chapter of yesterday that will never be read by anyone but historians as atavistic as I am.

The answer is actually pretty simple. I was raised in an environment where facts actually mattered. Then I went to college during the period when facts ceased to matter and became grist for the political mill which ground them into whatever consistency was convenient for the cause of the moment. Stripped of its pretensions, that's all post-modernism is: the deliberate perversion of facts into solipsistic bumper stickers. I'm older than most of the elder statesmen (and women) of the mass media, and so I'm aware that for the most part they don't even know what they're doing as they slant their coverage, undermine objectivity in the name of hidden agendas they believe in passionately, and treat facts as the malleable clay of a truth they honestly believe they can reveal through clever videotape editing and politically correct editorial rhetoric.

I'm old because I can look at Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Brian Williams, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Katie Couric, Jonathan Chait, Glenn Reynolds, Markos Moulitsas, Ace of Spades, etc, etc, and perceive the limits of their experience, the incredible dimness of their relation to the continuum of American life. They claim authority, swell with that authority like cornered toads, and then prove that their self-professed wisdom, altruism, and lofty perspective are nothing but adolescent braggadoccio. In a word, they're kids. Ambitious, obnoxious, repetitive, predictable, ill-educated, attention-hungry, opinionated but not terribly perceptive kids.

Sooner or later, the tyranny of even aging kids results in disaster. That's the deal with today's government determination that polar bears are an endangered species. They're nothing of the kind. The classification, though, is one of those silent catastrophes that truly wise folk fear the most -- the kind of invisible turning point that almost no one sees at the time but proves in retrospect to have been the first irrevocable step toward ruin. To find an equally dire precedent, one would have to go all the way back to the banning of DDT precipitated by Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," which has killed upwards of 30 million people and is still racking up malaria casualties at this very minute.

That's the difference between smart and wise. Smart sees the short-term advantage of seizing on a popular cause-celebre to drive home the reality of a danger they think they perceive based on bumper-sticker scripture. Wise sees the danger of holding entire nations hostage to an invented crisis that has the potential to deprive the only free societies on earth of fundamental liberties, even life itself -- in a fraudulent, cold-blooded conspiracy to manipulate good intentions into a surrender of political and economic freedom. To more, bigger, and hungrier government. You won't believe what we'll be asked, and told, to do to save the polar bears. Until it's too late.

I feel old because I can't believe such naked machinations succeed. Without even a whimper.

I'm not worried about the polar bears. They can take care of themselves. I'm worried about us. The ignorant fools who can't be bothered to learn the facts and happily consent to halfwit Byzantine plots against our way of life.

Today was a turning point. If you don't know that, you're a child. A remarkably backward and not terribly worthwhile child.

And I am older than Methuselah.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's Sweeps Week!

Don't shudder like that. We got this from Newsweek. It's interactive.

THE BIZ. Yes, the magical week is here, the third one in May, when all the media drop every other story and immerse us in a raging river of sex, sex, and, well, sex. If you don't ordinarily watch your local news shows, make an exception. You'll learn more than you ever thought possible about orgasms, female anatomy, naughty women, and naughtier experts. Why? Because it's the week when the most important ratings measurements are taken. The network entertainment shows are also guaranteed to chip in with their most salacious plots, boldest cleavage displays, and dirtiest double-entendres.

What's interesting is that the same phenomenon also appears to infect the Internet, which has no similar ratings pressure. But there seems to be some principle of contagion at work. Suddenly, in this week of all weeks of the year, sex is on everybody's mind as if by magic, for good and ill.

Unfortunately, though, this year it's tending more toward the 'ill' side. The gossip site, for example, is obsessing about individual female body parts to a degree reminiscent of dismembering serial killers. Today's HOT photo feature is about famous women who have "Man Hands." Ugh. Although, to be fair, they're also not overlooking the sturdy appeal of breasts, breasts, and, of course, breasts.

Breast fever has also reached the gnome who compiles (Why should he give a rat's ass about Neilsen ratings?) But this week he's linked to a sad story he calls "The Scourge of Buxomness," a Fox News piece about men's nipples (yuck), and a Newsweek investigative piece about the quest for the 'Perfect Bra.' The pic at the top of the post comes from the online edition of Newsweek, which if you click on the main graphic allows you to virtually 'try on' the perfect bra and adjust its straps to your own comfort preference and fashion sense. I guess that's a bonus for the ladies, perhaps to make up for the bonus they toss to the men, a definitely NSFW video feature called the "Bounce-O-Meter," which is nominally educational for women but also one of the more dangerously hypnotic and addictive visual drugs for men we've ever seen. But HotAir still hasn't had his fill of sex. He also links to a story about a recent tabloid survey which disclosed that Brit sex is kinky and getting kinkier.(Yawn). And to yet another piece about designers creating sexy burkhas, including a punk rock 'abaya,' whatever that is.

Well, you get the idea. We're not going to do a site by site analysis of the Internet to prove the main point. It's Sweeps Week, that's all. If you're one of those continental Euro types who don't have any interest in sex anymore, turn off the TV, the radio, the computer, and avoid every periodical publication until next week.

You know it's bad when even (yaaaawn) can find a sexual angle to opine about. Yup. They did. Take a gander at this piece about the horrible sexist hatred of women that's responsible for Hillary's flameout in the Democratic primaries. It's wrong, of course. Men obviously love women, or Sweeps Week would be about beer and sports, not all boobs all the time. But how else are they going to sneak our favorite subject into their political monomania? A Paul Begala column on strange sexual positions Hillary refused to try with Bill? Not going to happen.

Mostly, we're pleased that whatever causes the May Sweeps to exert a contagious influence on all forms of media, we, happily, are immune to the impulse to exploit and pander to it. (Let us know what you think of the Bounce-O-Meter. And if you like it, email all your firends about InstaPunk and then send us some money.)

There was some grand final inference we were going to draw, but it's slipped our mind for the moment. If we think of it, we'll let you know. Later in the week. It might be something about vaginas. Friday-ish.

P.S. About the audio file. If you think about it the way Randy Newman does, hats are actually sexier than bras. Is that the point we couldn't quite remember earlier? No. But it's more intriguing than anything has to offer. Unless you're the kind who gets off on this kind of (NSFW) 'Girls Gone Sweeps Week' gallery. But in that case, we don't want to have anything to do with you. Unless you send money.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Just for Joshua*
(*and others too smart to be curious)

More photographic hoaxes, mistakes, and mysteries here.

ANSWERING A COMMENT. I may have misunderstood his intent, but well respected InstaPunk reader Joshua Chamberlain seemed to be declaring his impatience with the subject of UFOs in his comment on the Thursday, May 8 post, which concluded with the sentiment, "Too many credible stories about UFOs and USOs. If any of them are true, the scientists are full of shit. Which isn't that much of a reach. Let's face it." Mr. Chamberlain's observation was, "You're not serious."

To be blunt, yes, I am. There are two poles of scientific certainty: the theories scientists are certain are true; and the theories scientists are certain are nonsense. Examples of the first kind are black holes, neo-Darwinian evolution, and man-made Global Warming. Examples of the second kind are ESP, reincarnation, and UFOs. Most people follow the easy middle path mapped out by the scientists, accepting what they say is true and rejecting what they say is untrue. Some have the temerity to question what scientists believe in while still following their lead in dismissing phenomena that are documented by more evidence than has ever been put forward for black holes. On the face of it this seems rather arbitrary. If scientists can be mistaken about subjects they have spent entire careers studying, why can't they be just as mistaken about subjects they've barely studied at all?

Yes, I know there are professional skeptics who make their money by wading into one controversy after another -- always claiming to be objective and devoted to the scientific method -- and always emerging from their investigations with exactly the same conclusion: nothing to it. To me they'd have more credibility if they occasionally (or even once) conceded that they don't know enough to be certain one way or the other. They're incredibly tiresome about repeating the Sagan Rule, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," but they almost never consider the possibility that the difference between extraordinary and ordinary may consist of baseless assumptions. Moreover, they're just as remiss in acknowledging that most of the phenomena they apply this standard to don't actually have what a real scientist would call a control -- that is, an equivalent population that can be compared to the population being studied or experimented on. There is no other self-conscious intelligent species we can look to as a basis for determining whether or not it is an extraordinary claim that ghosts exist, or reincarnation, or remote viewing, or Jungian synchronicity, or visitation by advanced alien species. If we really did have such a control population, it might be that the ordinary assumption regarding all these phenomena is that they're routine and to be expected.

If we could kidnap Leonardo da Vinci from the fifteenth century and bring him to ours, what would we have to do to convince him that a smaller unit of matter than any he was aware of could be split apart to produce an explosion that would level Florence and kill everyone who lived there? Would it be enough to show him the physics calculations and explain the technology? After all, that's all it would take to transform our faith that this is so into knowing certainty, and most of us aren't half as brilliant as Leonardo What if we showed him film of the first Los Alamos detonation and he didn't believe it? Is it really the claim that's extraordinary, or is it rather that his assumption set is simply too primitive? Even if he refused to believe it until we actually set off a nuclear warhead in his line of sight, it doesn't change the authenticity or the matter-of-fact correctness of the calculations and technology descriptions we showed him in the first place.

The Sagan Rule doesn't relate to evidence per se; it relates to the point of view of the percipient, specifically the closed-mindedness of the determined skeptic. If you're pre-disposed to disbelieve something, you're going to be harder to convince. That doesn't change the acceptable measure of proof at all. None but a handful of people has seen the wreck of the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. But we all (agree to) believe it exists, even though photographic evidence can be faked and all the supposed eyewitnesses have an economic incentive for making us believe their claims.

Yes, but we all just know that the earth isn't really being visited by a extraterrestrial civilizations. Sure we do. We also know that there's such a thing as an electron, which is sort of there and sort of not there too, according to quantum physics. What kind of evidence do you accept for the latter? And why is that so much more plausible than the evidence you dismiss for the former? Or haven't you ever really bothered to look into either?

You're on your own in researching the reality of the electron. But I can give you a start into investigating the possibility that the UFO phenomenon is a deeply mysterious reality of some sort whose fundamental nature isn't understood by anyone:

1952 White House Flap

Operation Mainbrace

Edwards Air Force Base

Browse and sharpshoot to your heart's content. At the end you may think you know. But you won't know. Nobody does. And the scientists who keep telling us they're sure how the universe works are guessing along with the rest of us.

That might be kind of sad, and it also might be kind of wonderful. It sort of depends on your point of view. Like everything else.

UPDATE.  On a different subject, faithful InstaPunk readers please note the update to the May 4 post about the Liberty Medal. I really am asking for some audience participation here. Not for Country Punk, who posted the original. But for Sid Mark, the amazing gentleman he was writing about. Thank you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Mother's Day Tribute to:

Liberal Moms
of the Future

They're going to be so NEW. And cool!

EQUALITY. We're into the new NEW feminism now, the post-Hillary, post-modern, post-love generation of git-up-and-go professional mothers to be. They'll be up on all the pre-nuptial agreement laws, time-off for post-partum murderous fantasies therapy, breastfeeding-till-puberty fashion statements, daycare-reimbursement rights, car-seat regulations, divorce-the-bastard-to-death self destructiveness, single-mother-I-get- the-house-and-everything- else-but-a-father litigation, my-kid-can-do-no-wrong denial, and post-doctoral, Michelle Obama, permanent, pissed-off hard-on about how-much-my- life-sucks-now politics. A breakthrough. Thanks to the fearless pioneers of the last half of the twentieth century, tomorrow's kids will have moms who know what men and phones are for (although the order of those should probably be reversed if priority is important).

Who could possibly have foreseen an age in which women would get "push-presents" just because they're maybe possibly capable of becoming mothers someday, and, well, basking in literally unbounded admiration just for the fact of their belonging to the superior female sex? Who could ever have anticipated the attractive distance and ennui of Michelle Obama?

Oops. maybe one guy foresaw it:

"Gloria is a very young soul--" began Mrs. Gilbert eagerly, but her nephew interrupted with a hurried sentence:

"Gloria'd be a very young nut not to marry him." He stopped and faced her, his expression a battle map of lines and dimples, squeezed and strained to its ultimate show of intensity--this as if to make up by his sincerity for any indiscretion in his words. "Gloria's a wild one, Aunt Catherine. She's uncontrollable. How she's done it I don't know, but lately she's picked up a lot of the funniest friends. She doesn't seem to care. And the men she used to go with around New York were--" He paused for breath.

"Yes-yes-yes," interjected Mrs. Gilbert, with an anaemic attempt to hide the immense interest with which she listened.

"Well," continued Richard Caramel gravely, "there it is. I mean that the men she went with and the people she went with used to be first rate. Now they aren't."

Mrs. Gilbert blinked very fast--her bosom trembled, inflated, remained so for an instant, and with the exhalation her words flowed out in a torrent.

She knew, she cried in a whisper; oh, yes, mothers see these things. But what could she do? He knew Gloria. He'd seen enough of Gloria to know how hopeless it was to try to deal with her. Gloria had been so spoiled--in a rather complete and unusual way. She had been suckled until she was three, for instance, when she could probably have chewed sticks. Perhaps--one never knew--it was this that had given that health and _hardiness_ to her whole personality. And then ever since she was twelve years old she'd had boys about her so thick--oh, so thick one couldn't _move_. At sixteen she began going to dances at preparatory schools, and then came the colleges; and everywhere she went, boys, boys, boys. At first, oh, until she was eighteen there had been so many that it never seemed one any more than the others, but then she began to single them out.

She knew there had been a string of affairs spread over about three years, perhaps a dozen of them altogether. Sometimes the men were undergraduates, sometimes just out of college--they lasted on an average of several months each, with short attractions in between. Once or twice they had endured longer and her mother had hoped she would be engaged, but always a new one came--a new one--

The men? Oh, she made them miserable, literally! There was only one who had kept any sort of dignity, and he had been a mere child, young Carter Kirby, of Kansas City, who was so conceited anyway that he just sailed out on his vanity one afternoon and left for Europe next day with his father. The others had been--wretched. They never seemed to know when she was tired of them, and Gloria had seldom been deliberately unkind. They would keep phoning, writing letters to her, trying to see her, making long trips after her around the country. Some of them had confided in Mrs. Gilbert, told her with tears in their eyes that they would never get over Gloria ... at least two of them had since married, though.... But Gloria, it seemed, struck to kill--to this day Mr. Carstairs called up once a week, and sent her flowers which she no longer bothered to refuse.

Several times, twice, at least, Mrs. Gilbert knew it had gone as far as a private engagement--with Tudor Baird and that Holcome boy at Pasadena. She was sure it had, because--this must go no further--she had come in unexpectedly and found Gloria acting, well, very much engaged indeed. She had not spoken to her daughter, of course. She had had a certain sense of delicacy and, besides, each time she had expected an announcement in a few weeks. But the announcement never came; instead, a new man came.

Scenes! Young men walking up and down the library like caged tigers! Young men glaring at each other in the hall as one came and the other left! Young men calling up on the telephone and being hung up upon in desperation! Young men threatening South America! ... Young men writing the most pathetic letters! (She said nothing to this effect, but Dick fancied that Mrs. Gilbert's eyes had seen some of these letters.)

... And Gloria, between tears and laughter, sorry, glad, out of love and in love, miserable, nervous, cool, amidst a great returning of presents, substitution of pictures in immemorial frames, and taking of hot baths and beginning again--with the next.

That state of things continued, assumed an air of permanency. Nothing harmed Gloria or changed her or moved her. And then out of a clear sky one day she informed her mother that undergraduates wearied her. She was absolutely going to no more college dances.

This had begun the change--not so much in her actual habits, for she danced, and had as many "dates" as ever--but they were dates in a different spirit. Previously it had been a sort of pride, a matter of her own vainglory. She had been, probably, the most celebrated and sought-after young beauty in the country. Gloria Gilbert of Kansas City! She had fed on it ruthlessly--enjoying the crowds around her, the manner in which the most desirable men singled her out; enjoying the fierce jealousy of other girls; enjoying the fabulous, not to say scandalous, and, her mother was glad to say, entirely unfounded rumors about her--for instance, that she had gone in the Yale swimming-pool one night in a chiffon evening dress.

And from loving it with a vanity that was almost masculine--it had been in the nature of a triumphant and dazzling career--she became suddenly anaesthetic to it. She retired. She who had dominated countless parties, who had blown fragrantly through many ballrooms to the tender tribute of many eyes, seemed to care no longer. He who fell in love with her now was dismissed utterly, almost angrily. She went listlessly with the most indifferent men. She continually broke engagements, not as in the past from a cool assurance that she was irreproachable, that the man she insulted would return like a domestic animal--but indifferently, without contempt or pride. She rarely stormed at men any more--she yawned at them. She seemed--and it was so strange--she seemed to her mother to be growing cold.

Richard Caramel listened. At first he had remained standing, but as his aunt's discourse waxed in content--it stands here pruned by half, of all side references to the youth of Gloria's soul and to Mrs. Gilbert's own mental distresses--he drew a chair up and attended rigorously as she floated, between tears and plaintive helplessness, down the long story of Gloria's life. When she came to the tale of this last year, a tale of the ends of cigarettes left all over New York in little trays marked "Midnight Frolic" and "Justine Johnson's Little Club," he began nodding his head slowly, then faster and faster, until, as she finished on a staccato note, it was bobbing briskly up and down, absurdly like a doll's wired head, expressing--almost anything.

In a sense Gloria's past was an old story to him. He had followed it with the eyes of a journalist, for he was going to write a book about her some day. But his interests, just at present, were family interests. He wanted to know, in particular, who was this Joseph Bloeckman that he had seen her with several times; and those two girls she was with constantly, "this" Rachael Jerryl and "this" Miss Kane--surely Miss Kane wasn't exactly the sort one would associate with Gloria!

But the moment had passed. Mrs. Gilbert having climbed the hill of exposition was about to glide swiftly down the ski-jump of collapse. Her eyes were like a blue sky seen through two round, red window-casements. The flesh about her mouth was trembling.

And at the moment the door opened, admitting into the room Gloria and the two young ladies lately mentioned.

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

Yeah, he knew something about Princetion, and even Yale. But what the hell did he know about iPhones, text-messaging, and girl power? Women invented all that stuff. And future babies will thank them forever. Especially when they figure out how easily their moms could have ditched them in that incredibly uncomfortable and vanity-assaulting ninth month.

Happy Mother's Day to all the old-fashioned mothers out there. We love you. Oh yes we do. You we absolutely revere and treasure. Because we know you never thought about killing us to keep your career, your figure or your boyfriend.

Nobody under the age of 40 can be really sure of that anymore. Moms.

WICKED. Try listening to the audio file as if it were a fetus talking to the neo-Mom of the graphic above after she'd decided to, uh, "end the pregnancy" for the good of all concerned. Would Gloria care? Would Michelle? Would the current Princeton female graduating class? [Text your answers to 98987.]

That's the basis of our heartfelt thank you to the real mothers who don't need push-presents or all the convenient empty clap-trap of post-modern narcissism. Which has always been there. It just never used to be regarded as a virtue.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Your Friday Folly

TGIF. The inspired diggers over at HotAir found this terrific clip of Hillary Clinton acting out the final scene from Sunset Boulevard. It's too good to pass up, even if the only value-added we can provide is the easy-to-find clip of the original scene.

Here it is:

But who, we wonder, is the dead guy in Hillary's pool? You know, the murdered guy who narrates the whole pitiful story.

Has anyone checked on Bill's whereabouts today?

Never mind. We're sure he's fine. But, uh, what about that Mark Penn fellow?

Just asking.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Life Unlikely

NOTHING'S AS SIMPLE AS IT SEEMS. Okay. So this is interesting. From a lot of different angles.

ET contact odds 'extremely low'

The odds of intelligent life arising on another Earth-like planet are low, a British scientist has calculated.

He argues that humans evolved via a series of four "critical steps" - the likelihood of all of which occurring on one planet is less than 0.01%....

Professor Andrew Watson has published his findings in the academic journal Astrobiology.

"Complex life may be a rare phenomenon, observers rarer still," he wrote...

"We now believe that we evolved late in the Earth's habitable period, and this suggests that our evolution is rather unlikely. In fact, the timing of events is consistent with it being very rare indeed," he says...

Previous models are founded on the rationale that intelligent life on Earth emerged from a sequence of unlikely "critical steps".

Prof Watson identifies four - the emergence of single-celled bacteria; complex cells; specialised cells allowing complex life forms; intelligent life with an established language.

He estimates that the probability of each of these "critical steps" occurring in relation to the lifespan of Earth is no more than 10%.

Thus, the chances of intelligent life on any given Earth-like planet is tiny - less than 0.01% over four billion years.

Let me count the problems with this bohunkus analysis of cosmology. I'm not just having fun here. I'm demonstrating some of the principal problems with official science the way it's practiced in academe. The official logic is silly but important.

Let's start with the most disingenuous part of the story: "Previous models are founded on the rationale that intelligent life on Earth emerged from a sequence of unlikely 'critical steps'" [Italics added] The word 'rationale' is in this case a synonym for 'assumption.' An assumption that's suspect on several counts.

First, the universe is immensely vast, which means that even the unlikeliest events are, in sum, inevitable. Eventually, somebody does win the Powerball Lottery. All it takes is enough trials. Our universe provides an almost infinite number of trials. Which means there's a pretty big population of Powerball winners when you start multiplying billion-to-one odds by umpty-quintillion ticket buyers.

No matter what the odds are against life on earth, there are probably billions of planets where similarly 'unlikely' events have taken place.

Second, the assumption implies that the vastness of space somehow matters in terms of ET contact. There are two reasons to doubt this. There's Arthur C. Clarke's admonition that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Which scientists routinely discount in every specific question they look at. Why? Because they can't conceive that someone out there could be smarter than they are. Not possible. They sort of insist that everyone else would apply their logic to any situation they can imagine. The fact is, we have no way of knowing the process or technology by which a vastly superior civilization might discover that we exist and come for a visit.

The other reason is that there's something unique about earth we already know about, something that sets us dramatically apart from 99+ percent of other planets. The moon. (Despite science's insistence that it understands everything important about the universe, it still can't explain definitively where the moon came from.) It is a stabilizing factor in our planetary orbit and rotation. It keeps us from flipping and rolling and having the high old time we'd no doubt prefer if we were the planetary teenagers Carl Sagan warned us not to be. Without the moon, and its exact size, rotation, and periodicity, there's no chance there'd be life on earth. The nature of the moon's relationship to the earth, and the sun, makes us a glowing signal to anyone out there looking for advanced life in the universe. We're a kind of neon sign to anyone who has the 'magical' technology to sift through galaxies in search of likely loci of life.

Beyond this, the root assumption still sucks. The four 'unlikely' phases of the development of life on earth have the flavor of Zeno's Arrow. In a proper logical context, life seems incredibly unlikely to the believers of neo-Darwinian evolution. Four big steps are required, each of which is prohibitively improbable. Provided you think it's all caused by mutation and adaptation. With no intelligence involved.

Uh oh. Intelligent design. The great non-theory of the non-scientific. Fuck off. If intelligence is possible as an attribute of organic life forms, it's also a pre-existing potentiality -- call it a built-in property of the universe itself, like leaf shapes and cranial brain location -- and maybe it drives relentlessly toward manifesting itself. If so, that would change the odds the Brit scientist is "rationalizing." No more Zeno. In this case, the universe is teeming with intelligent life and the odds are very different from what the experts would have us believe. Change the assumption, change the odds.

Why are they so resistant? The scientists, I mean. They're not behaving rationally at all. On the one hand, they chafe at the idea that a change in a few constants of physics would result in no universe at all. They tell us the fortunate circumstances that underlie this universe mean only that that all other combinations of physical laws are also being tried out in universes unseen. On the other hand, they insist that conscious intelligence is a freak by-product of an entirely accidental process and means nothing, while they simultaneously argue that it just might be the rarest thing in the universe. What happened to the infinity of everything being tried?

I think it's called having your cake and eating it too. Their very particular arrangement of probabilities makes them (purely by coincidence, mind) the smartest beings in the universe. Hmmmm.

Not buying it. Too many credible stories about UFOs and USOs. If any of them are true, the scientists are full of shit. Which isn't that much of a reach. Let's face it.

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