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September 7, 2013 - August 31, 2013

Saturday, September 07, 2013


Why You Don't See Greyhounds in Commercials.



Bet you never saw this kind of display. (Skip to 5 minutes in.)

Letís face it. Dogs are some of the top sellers in the advertising world. Greyhounds are the most exotic of all dogs, but Madison Avenue has no use for them. Why?

1. People think Golden Retrievers and Yellow Labs are handsome, friendly, and intelligent. But thereís a problem with that. People also think theyíre superior to Golden Retrievers and Yellow Labs. You know. And French bulldogs, Boston terriers, and pugs. They make us feel better about ourselves. We love them, they love us. Greyhounds are Godís arrows. They love, but they hold much in reserve. They know who they are. Frequently, they prefer their own company. They make us feel smaller. When they launch, oh, Jesus. Weíre just spectators. Not what the ad world wants.

2. Greyhounds donít do cute things on cue. Not that they donít do cute things. They do. Mostly when theyíre lounging on a couch. They have, well, a conscious relationship with stuffed toys. They donít chew them. They gather them up and hold them close, sleep next to them. Doesnít lend itself to 30 seconds of selling somehow.

3. Greyhound faces. A subject unto themselves. Smooth, pop-eyed but not startled, endowed with eyes that see everything, even what we donít want seen. Always open when we talk but so often closed in slumber on the floor or sofa. They donít show emotion the same way other dogs do. Theyíre not in the business of reacting to us. No matter how close a bond you have, you will never see it in their faces. You learn it from the need for a greyhound hug, which is usually brief but intense, emotions flowing both ways. You look at them straight on, and you see no emotion except what is in their eyes. Sighthounds. They live through their eyes. Even with you. TV canít do that.

4. Beauty. Ads are more about comedy and connection than anything else. Especially when dogs are involved. But greyhounds are principally, overwhelmingly, about beauty and awe. We love the dog in the Travellerís Insurance ads with the floppy ear and the soulful face. Greyhounds donít offer that. They stare like impassive gods at everyone who doesnít have one. They donít entertain. They just are. And they are everything opposite to advertising ó remote, gorgeous, utterly uninterested in seduction or approval. When the moment comes, they will explode into action and chances are, your cameras wonít be able to record that moment with any fidelity. No one can keep up, no one should try, and thatís no way to sell insurance, cosmetics, or Fritos.

Whereas, you can see how winning Scottish deerhounds are in their ads, winsome, engaged with the camera, and all around humorously charming:


Except that they just don't care at all what we think.

See Deerhound Diary for the complication.




Friday, September 06, 2013


One Idea, From Seven Different Angles, About America



RIBBIT. One. A hundred mile an hour bean ball is coming right for your head. If you flinch, you die. If you keep your eyes wide open, you might have a chance to hit it.

Two. You are always driving. You can pull over from time to time to eat and get *some* rest, but you have to spend most of your time behind the wheel. While youíre driving, you can never sleep, never take your eyes off the road for longer than a second, never close your eyes for longer than a blink, never forget youíre driving.

This is not some trip down a long, straight stretch of interstate. You must constantly decide which roads to go down, which eight-lane Autobahns, which blind alleys. There is no mapó though you have been driving for a while, so you have a pretty good idea how city boulevards and rocky country backroads twist and turn. You canít stay in any one place forever. Driving somewhere new is inevitable.

Three. You are in a stadium, surrounded by ten thousand doors. A crack in the ground opens in front of a door behind you, and travels clockwise around you, blocking more and more doors. The spread of the crack (ha ha) at is consistent, but not always uniform. It can be narrow enough to jump in front of some doors, too wide in front of others. The crack spirals back and laps you, over and over, always moving, always widening. The longer you wait to choose a door, the fewer doors are reachable, and the farther you have to jump to reach the remaining doors.

Four. You have what is either the least or the most advantageous mutation in evolutionary history: Your immune system is strictly voluntary.

Most people have antibodies that fight diseases automatically; not you. You must ďmanually,Ē deliberately control your white blood cells and figure out how to kill each new pathogen.

Your first few years almost killed you, but evolution also gave you a something of a natural instinct for this. You learned the basics of manually fighting disease sooner than you learned to crawl. You were lucky enough to have been diagnosed as having no immune system before you were bornó though doctors had never seen anything like your voluntary immune systemís genetic profile before and had no clue in hell what to make of itó so you were sheltered from birth from most of the infectious diseases you would have been exposed to ďin the wild.Ē Your instinct could only teach you the basics of disease fighting, and no technology could seal you off from every single little microscopic critter on earth, but lucky nature and wise nurture gave you a fighting chance.

But life in a plastic bubble isnít much of a life. Before you even turned 10, you decided youíd have to gradually shed your technological protection and learn to take care of yourself. It was tough going, and there was no one who could teach you how to do it, but you were determined, and you got sick less and less. You learned to fight smarter, and faster, as you got older you got to spend more and time living and less and less time fighting inside yourself.

But you have an arch enemy, a kryptonite. There is a virus that attacks your determination itself. Thatís its evolutionary advantage. It makes you less willing to do all the mental work it takes to keep disease at bay, makes that work seem like more and more of a hassle. At first, it was content to secret that field of fatigue and indifference around itself, which is its protection. But since itís thrived in your guts your whole life, itís starting to get comfortable. More and more pathogens that enter benefit from the virusís protection. You were on top of your disease-fighting game for a while, but lately it seems like more of a chore to do even simple immune system maintenance. This virus is your AIDS.

Five. English Ivy has entered your garden. A bad remnant from the old world, English Ivy dominates soil and chokes off other plants. You ignored it when you first saw it. Now itís everywhere, and only a few of your favorite plants remain.

Six. Frogger was old, too old to jump across traffic anymore. But the only shade in the desert was on the other side of the highway. And it was rush hour. The cars whizzed by as rapid as machine gun fire, none of them slowing to let him in. The sun beat hot on his back.

"This might be it," he said out loud, half hearing himself over the traffic. ďThis might be the day the heat finally does me in."

Resigned to his likely fate, he idly watched the road, remembering his glory days. A smiled crossed his clammy old frog lips as he remembered how good he used to be. The satisfying burn in his calves as heíd jump on a bumper, touching it only for an instant as he lept off it, reaching all the way down to his bones for strength. He longed, for the first time in a while, for the adrenaline rush that came with the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh hop through a brief window in traffic, springing back up as fast as gravity could bring him back down. Most of all, his wait in the sun reminded of him of the wait between lanes, always perched on his legs, never resting his body on the ground, pivoting from left to right, calculating the smallest of gaps between cars.

He unconsciously rose on his legs now, his old joints sore but still tight. He knew he wasnít as quick as he used to beó a few recent close calls dispelled any doubtó but the act of standing got his blood pumping, and he liked it. The sunís heat was forgotten, but that shade across the highway had never looked more tempting.

Frogger decided heíd rather go out in a splat of glory than die on his belly like an asshole.

Seven. Same as Angle Three, but erosion instead of an earthquake, months instead of minutes, and windows instead of doors. Youíve been inside too long. Sunlight hurts your eyes. Youíve decide to cover with black spray paint any window that shines too bright. You wonder why you canít see any way out.




Thursday, September 05, 2013


Countdown to Brizoni


That Ayn Rand. What a babe.

EXCEPTION NOTED. The big news. At noon today, he will be posting right here at Instapunk. His topic will be the blind, bone stupidity of those who insist on believing in God. Because not believing in God is the necessary next step in human evolution. It's much much better to not believe in God and be nasty to those who do, which is part of the morality somehow built into this utterly random universe. He has been watching the new site called Deerhound Diary, and he has been moved to respond with high dudgeon. Not moved to inquire into my wife's state of health, mind, but to defend his reputation for tireless, unpersuasive rants about the supremacy of Ayn Rand's anti-Soviet philosophy.

Goosebumps anyone? Just how humorless and didactic can one 30-year-old be? How dull, repetitive and remote from any personal sharing can one brilliant philosophical despot be?

We'll find out together. At noon. Provided the genius can still remember how to post.





Why Not God?



HE KEPT PUSHING. Robert wants more. OK then. He wants me to be entertaining. This won't be that. It's a simple knife to the heart of his cowardice. Slides in once, slides back out. All it takes.

He's also called me a "bully." He spins so well, he should have been a feminist. This isn't harassment. This is an intervention.

I'll take this from the top, for anyone who might have missed it or might need a refresher.

My contention is that nothing less than a new moral foundation is necessary to save America. "Save" might sound a little dramatic, but I think we all agree these are dramatic times. America is about crash. Financially and morally. Everyone knows when we go down, it won't be some comic pratfall like Greece. Have you ever thought of the Twin Towers as a portent for this century?

You might ask why not just return to the old morality. Because it has an achilles heel, a weak link, a fatal flaw. God.

1. God won't work. Here's the problem with God as the foundation of morality and rights. If rights come from God, rights might not exist, since God might not exist. Robert's answer to this has been to try to weasel away from the perfectly reasonable and plausible doubt in God's existence. But he couldn't even do that. Look at the title of his response to my boldfaced sentence: Indicators of God. Indicators. Muthafucka, I know God might exist. "Might not" implies "might." It's the "might not" that's the issue. "Maybe" is a better answer than "no" to the question of whether rights exist, but it's still not good enough. Nothing less than a solid yes will do. God doesn't qualify.

Robert's hysterical tantrums-- and some of my fed up responses to those tantrums-- to the contrary, admitting this doesn't require any hostility toward religion, or anyone to become hostile toward religion. It does require we take religion off the table as a solution to the nation's current crisis. Yes, it does.

2. God didn't work? Number 1 brings us to some hard questions. If God doesn't work as a foundation, what does? Is a foundation possible? Has there ever even been a foundation?

In a recent piece, no less a conservative than George Will came out as nonreligious. I won't pretend he's a hard-a atheist of the Dawkins or Harris variety, but more than once he stresses religion as inessential to natural rights.

The longer John Adams lived, the shorter grew his creed, which in the end was Unitarianism. Thomas Jefferson wrote ringing words about the Creator who endowed us with rights, but Jefferson was a placid utilitarian when he urged a nephew to inquire into the veracity of Christianity, saying laconically: "If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comforts and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you."

James Madison, always commonsensical, explained ó actually, explained away ó religion as an innate appetite: "[T]he mind prefers at once the idea of a self-existing cause to that of an infinite series of cause and effect." When the first Congress hired a chaplain, Madison said "it was not with my approbation."

Yet even the founders who were unbelievers considered it a civic duty ó a public service ó to be observant unbelievers. For example, two days after Jefferson wrote his famous letter endorsing a "wall of separation" between church and state, he attended, as he and other government officials often would, church services held in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Services were also held in the Treasury building.

Jefferson and other founders made statesmanlike accommodation of the public's strong preference, which then as now was for religion to enjoy ample space in the public square. They understood that Christianity, particularly in its post-Reformation ferments, fostered attitudes and aptitudes associated with, and useful to, popular government. Protestantism's emphasis on the individual's direct, unmediated relationship with God and the primacy of individual conscience and choice subverted conventions of hierarchical societies in which deference was expected from the many toward the few.

Beyond that, however, the American founding owed much more to John Locke than to Jesus. The founders created a distinctly modern regime, one respectful of pre-existing rights ó rights that exist before government and so are natural in that they are not creations of the regime that exists to secure them. In 1786, the year before the Constitutional Convention, in the preamble to the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Jefferson proclaimed: "[O]ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry." [emphases added, read the whole thing, it's fascinating stuff]

The Founders are a great place to start. But I think I've found the theorist who not only makes a great case for rights, and morality, but flat-out proves that case.

3. Why Rand? Because the bitch was right.

If you think she's wrong, prove it. Do you remember what the word "proof" means? Not throwing a snide little fit. Not throwing every excuse you can think of, no matter how lame or contradictory. But proof.

What more can I say? How much do we really care about civilization? What are we willing to give up to fight for that future? We're not even talking Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor quite yet. And we're not talking about throwing God out on the street. We talking about taking His name off the masthead.




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