Empire of Illusion Ch. 3: Slouching Towards the Ivies

At this point in the book, it’s becoming more evident to me that Chris Hedges is a cultural conservative of a fairly traditionalist bent. Some readers might overlook this because he’s a progressive, but as anyone who’s lived in a black community in America can attest, left-wing politics and traditionalist cultural values can live together…

Euripides, “Andromache” and Bitter Victory

It’s striking that in recent years America has become familiar with a major theme in Euripides: namely, the war that starts after victory is declared. I proposed this as the climate in which Hecuba takes place, but the same is even more evidentially true of Andromache. Here, via Donald Junkins’s translation, the Chorus tells us: “A…

Revenge of the Nerds

The Westboro Baptist Church decided to picket Comic Con 2010 for some reason. (God probably hates anime.) The cosmic alliance of convention-goers responded by staging a counter-protest across the street with an appropriately high level of silliness. Pictures here. I tip my hat.

In Defense of Casting Stones at Mel Gibson

E.D., I have a great amount of respect for your frequent calls for us to rise above passing judgment over other people, and to keep in mind the inner turmoil that Mel Gibson is clearly living with. I sympathize with your sense that we’re griping about the splinter in his eye, casting the first stone,…

For the Book Clubbers

For those reading along at home, this CBC podcast has a great interview with Chris Hedges about “Empire of Illusion”, during the first 20 minutes or so, that asks a number of good questions about the book.

Notes on “Empire of Illusion”, Chapter 1., and Bad TV

I think it’s time we start collectively chewing on Chris Hedge’s book “Empire of Illusion”. I’d like to kick things off by offering some (scattered) thoughts on Chapter 1: The Illusion of Literacy… I don’t watch much television. Mainly, this is because, after working on a dissertation, blogging the canon, maintaining a complex relationship with…

Oh, Canaduh!

Rivaling the problems of John Stagliano in the U.S., Quebec make-up effects artist Rémy Couture is facing criminal charges for “moral corruption” under section163 of the Criminal Code of Canada for the content of both his horror-themed website and his two short films about a psychopath, apparently because his effects were deemed too realistic. Psychopaths, incidentally,…

History, Confucius, Hegel, and Bettie Page

In a recent post, Jason poses good questions about Confucius and how we view history more generally. As for Confucius’s idealization of the Duke of Zhou, the little I know about Chinese history suggests that the Duke really was a great and important figure who inaugurated a long and peaceful dynasty. However, it is impossible…

Okay, your thoughts?

Speaking of public decorum and the surveillance culture (two recent subjects), over at Feministe they’re telling us about the ihollaback iPhone application, which allows the user to photograph street harassers (à la hollabacknyc) and send the info to a central database for mapping or informing police and other users. The comments section is invaluable for…

The Great Soda Pop Kerfuffle 2010

Fine, I’ll go on record about whether San Francisco government workers should have their pop taken away, in case I ever have to testify about this before a Congressional committee. Nope. I don’t think this sort of grandstanding accomplishes anything, it’s irritating, arrogant, and there’s something creepy and paternalistic about employers telling their adult employees…

Notes Toward a Confucian Politics

As I get older, I find myself, really against my will, struck much more often by how far standards of decorum have fallen into desuetude. My usual evening walk will include at least a few passersby in “wife beater” shirts, roughly my age, intoxicated and dimly angry, sitting outside of the local 7-11, with whom…

The Empire of Illusion Strikes Back

Okay, just so we’re all clear on this: Once upon a time, I proposed that we read the book “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” by Chris Hedges as a League Book Club selection. Something in that post infected the site with a virus, so Kain took it out…

Testing…

I just wanted to do a quick test and see if I can post something here without infecting the site. Seriously, I don’t know what the deal was with my last post. I think it might have been the image file, although I can’t for the life of me see how it could have been…

Plato: Theaetetus and Arguing with Others

When we occupy ourselves with countering other people’s ideas, are we defining our own ideas in a roundabout way or just killing time? The Western style of argumentation includes a strong oppositional facet that has produced many great and lively polemics. It was noticeable that the Pre-Socratics often included a section on the idiotic beliefs…

On Burning Cop Cars and Stagecraft

A screaming came across the sky. The pine needled hush of cottage country was briefly, but violently, punctured by the deafening whoosh of low-flying fighter jets this weekend. Passing directly over our family cabin, the searing sound reverberated incredibly. Fillings were rattled, relatives were terrified, dogs barked dumbly; meanwhile, your intrepid reporter remained snoring on…

The Two-fisted Films of Sam Fuller

It is a strange irony that the French, for all their criticisms of America, tend so often to discover and celebrate great American artists long before their compatriots. Such is the case with Sam Fuller, a masterful filmmaker who is now starting to receive the Criterion treatment in the U.S., after being hailed as an…

Medea: Aliens, Barbarians, and One Bad Mother

We can’t completely condemn Medea: after all, she was seduced and manipulated by the Corinthian warrior Jason, tricked into using her magic to win the golden fleece for his people, betraying her family and killing her kin, and then dragged to a land where she was considered a barbarian by people inferior to her demigoddess…

Buddhism, Digha Nikaya, and the eightfold path

Continuing with our detour into the Buddhist scriptures- ‘wandering on the way’ as it were- I am struck by how little the western tradition has readied me to read them. In Christianity, for example, a complex and sophisticated mélange of story, poetry, parable, and myth delivers a message that ultimately comes down to the conviction…

Happy Juneteenth!

Today, June 19th, is “Juneteenth”: the date commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It was June 19th, 1865, that Union General Gordon Granger, having arrived with troops the day before, read General Order No. 3  in Galveston, Texas, announcing the emancipation that had been established by the Emancipation Proclamation issued in September,…

The Dhammapada: Socrates & Buddha Vs. Desire

The death of Socrates brings us, in a strange way, to the life of the Buddha. Socrates came to the conclusion that mental/spiritual enlightenment requires us to renounce bodily craving and our need to perpetually satisfy our sensual desires. Spiritual growth means mastering our desires, and letting go of the attachments of embodied life. In…

Truth, Justice, and the American (sexual) Way

With blogging, I sometimes wonder if I’ve really accomplished anything by linking to another text and saying, “Hey, look at this bizarre thing some dude wrote!” I might just be jawboning and gossiping here and adding nothing of real value. And yet…hey, look at this bizarre thing Michael Gerson wrote! Actually, it’s a good column…

Failed girls

At Feministe, Jill writes about a heartsickening story of a 13 year old’s self-induced abortion after being impregnated by a 30 year old: “… And her community and her culture — the people who are supposed to tell her that she’s important, that she’s loved, that she deserves pleasure, that she deserves autonomy — failed her.…

Plato: Meno & Learning Virtue

First off: Welcome to Austin Bramwell and Lisa Kramer! The more the merrier around here. Okay, the Meno dialogue deals with some of the same themes as the later Phaedo dialogue, particularly the idea that all learning is recollection. Here Plato also hints at the idea of virtue as a sort of divine inspiration. And…

Fungal Power

How will they get all that oil out of the Gulf of Mexico? Paul Stamets suggests mycoremediation: using mushrooms to break down and consume the oil. It apparently works on land. Not to mention it’s a pretty good time to use any idea they’ve got.

The Homosexuals, 1967

Stepping into the way-back machine, Pam’s House Blend brings to light a CBS report on homosexuality, circa 1967: “With all of the bitter battles for each step of progress, when you watch something like this it reminds you that the vast majority of the country has come a long way in terms of viewing LGBTs as part…

Plato, Phaedo and the ‘death’ of Socrates

Stepping from the Crito to the Phaedo dialogue, Plato moves onto more solid ground by switching the discussion to the soul; here, we might not agree with Socrates’s ideas about existence beyond death, but it is much clearer why his beliefs have led him to welcome dying as the soul’s release from the body. The…

“Battling Disease”

In an interesting post at Girl w/ Pen, Alison Piepmeier discusses her discomfort with using battle metaphors to describe life with illness and disability: “I’d be politically troubled or offended if someone had referred to the little boy… as “battling” his life in a wheelchair, or if people suggested that my daughter was “struggling against”…

And Man made Life

A landmark worth noting: After 15 years of work, scientists have, for the first time, created a new, synthetic, living, and self-replicating cell. If that seems unimpressive, the Economist notes: “The result is the first creature since the beginning of creatures that has no ancestor.”

Ménage à cinq

The French Romantic author Gérard de Nerval once wrote: “In the character of our nation, there is a tendency to exercise force when one possesses it, and have pretensions to power, when one does not.” He was making the case that little had changed in French censorship as the Old Régime passed into the New;…

Plato, “Apology”

In the Apology, Socrates defends himself, badly, against the charge of impiety stemming from the belief that he has corrupted the youth, denied the city’s gods, and introduced new divinities. On trial for his life, Socrates demonstrates the implausibility and ridiculousness of the charges and of those who have brought these charges against him, and…