Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Proto-Romantic philosophers and so-bad-it's-a-masterpiece yuri. You cannot get any more 'Me' than this.

A scene from Philosophy Club a couple of weeks ago:

Girl (name withheld since we're not on especially good terms and I don't want to be a total jerk to her over the Internet): *says something about Kannazuki no Miko*

Me: Oh, hey, I just finished rewatching that show! It's not really very good, but I have a bit of affection for it for reasons unrelated to its objective quality.

Girl: Such as?

Me: I'm not always entirely sure why, but in some ways I like the characters a lot, even Chikane given the extreme situations in which she has to make decisions. Of course, they're not perfect by any means.

Girl: Well...I mean, what Chikane did was certainly, on some levels, wrong.

Me: Oh, definitely. That's part of why she did it.

Girl: Yeah. I mean, just think of it in Kantian terms: What if everybody raped their girlfriend in an attempt to incite her to violence so that she'd destroy and recreate the world?

Me: I...I think that the categorical imperative, here, has to be parsed to the level on which not everybody is in a position where that would have the intended effect even if it was done 'correctly'. If it's possible to commit sex crimes correctly, which it isn't, by definition.

Girl: Are you a Kantian?

Me: Kantianism plus some virtue/duty ethics, yes.

Girl: Well, okay, how about...

Me: How about if everybody was the Lunar Priestess and acted as Chikane did? I feel like that's the correct categorical imperative analysis to use here.

Girl: Then it wouldn't be Kannazuki no Miko, dipshit.

Me: It wouldn't be the categorical imperative either.

Best philosophy club or greatest philosophy club?

The Law takes cyborg bear heroes very seriously.

This is a disclaimer to BEARsen, a kids' cartoon about a Swedish cyborg bear superhero that my friend Vita and I have long been trying to make happen.

BEARsen is a work of fiction. Some characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is not only not coincidental, but probably intended to be insulting as well. The creators of BEARsen abide by two natural laws—the law of awesome and the law of comedy. Any use of other scientific laws, including but not limited to the mass-energy relation, dominated convergence theorem, Euler-Maclaurin formula, Knuth up-arrow notation, Hempel’s raven, Drake equation, Maxwell diagrams, rank-nullity theorem, central dogma, Westermarck effect, maternal effect dominant embryonic arrest, modern evolutionary synthesis, Curry’s paradox, the Witch of Agnesi, the golden ratio, the law of equivalent exchange, Boyle’s law, Hoyle’s rules, Robert’s rules, house rules, rule of law, and punctuated equilibrium, serves only to enhance the awesomeness or funniness of the events in BEARsen and should not be construed as an endorsement of scientific education as a path to Epic Win. BEARsen is not affiliated with any church, synagogue, mosque, temple, shrine, shul, cathedral, basilica, monastery, abbey, nunnery, gurdwara, madrassa, stupa, hermitage, priory, friary, pagoda, convent, meetinghouse, jinja, or longhouse, except for the First Church of the Blessed St Bob of Hackensack in Mombassa, Kenya. Side effects of watching too much BEARsen may include headache, nausea, vomiting, death, dizziness, stomach pain, acid reflux, cardiac arrhythmia, mild heart explosions, headache, varicose veins, darkened stool, darkened soul, lycanthropy, trucanthropy, arteriosclerosis, haemorrhoids, spontaneous loss of virginity, mild discomfort, vampirism, susto, gender impermanence, sugar high, more vomiting, 401 errors, fallen armpits, Zod’s Disease, spontaneous combustion, flaming ninjas, fair use doctrine, Dogma 95, inverted cranium, electric guitars, por speling, colon cancer, apocalyptic prophecies, apoplectic prophecies, Tony Danza, speaking in a badly done German accent, a desire to dance the Virginia Reel, explosive diarrhoea, implosive diarrhoea, a desire to add increasingly more ridiculous symptoms to a list, St Robert Bellarmine, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, headache, warts, flatulence, demonic possession, wandering skin, cranial inversion, fin rot, Dakka, seasonal allergies, null pointer exceptions, sleep crime, listening to non-stop Japanese electronica, need to shout the word ‘BEAR’ when it comes up in conversation, thinking that you’re good at Guitar Hero to impress others, More Dakka, headache, stomach-ache, nosebleed, horniness, hysteria siberiana, desire to have sex with Ingmar Bergman, exploding uvula syndrome, a desire to take over the world using eight reprogrammed robot masters, spontaneous regaining of virginity, the ‘dancing sushi’, flying ball rot, scarlet devil compaction, abscessed animus, atheism, theism, headache, erectile dysfunction, projectile dysfunction, volatile malted milk impoundments, infections of the crescent of Gianuzzi, isles of Langerhans, crypts of Lieberkühn, canal of Gugier, circle of Willis, area of Cohnheim, pyramids of Malpighi, antrum of Highmore, spaces of Fontana, cistern of Pecquet, angle of Ludwig, Scarpa’s triangle, Gower’s tract, Goll’s column, pouch of Douglas, convolutions of Broca, and jelly of Wharton, sudden infertility, sudden fecundity, Tanizaki Yukari-sensei, need to shout the word ‘BEAR’ when it doesn’t come up in conversation, headache, convulsions, flying ball rot, artificial insemination, temporary insanity, permanent insanity, hilariously ill-plotted shōjo, bone-crunching zombie carnage, Godless liberals, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, and mild rash. The creators are not responsible for any loss of life, limb, face, friends, enemies, infrastructure, faith in the human race, ammunition, political goodwill, or the God of Diodorus Siculus that watching BEARsen may cause you to incur.
So yeah.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: Escape to Hell and Other Stories

There comes a time in every great dictator's life when he puts pen to paper and writes a series of quasi-philosophical, Gonzo short stories that address themes of urban alienation, the pharmacisation of emotional problems, family dilemmas, and the flatness of a globalised world, which then get published as a proper, bound, English-language book, with a foreword by former White House Press Secretary and United States Senator Pierre Salinger.

Well, actually, no, that is not true. That only applies to Muammar al-Qaddafi, the David Bowie of modern tyrants, who wrote Escape to Hell and Other Stories in the early 1990s, one of the better (or less horrifically godawful) periods of his rule over the Great Socialist Libyan Arab People's State of the Masses. Qaddafi apparently was trying, at the time, to reinvent himself as a serious, if deliberately unpalatable to Western post-Enlightenment sensibilities, political 'wise man' along the lines of Sayyid Qutb or Mahmoud Mohamed Taha. Escape to Hell was his Eoineen of the Birds, an intended sally of the political into realms of serious cultural production, and what a quixotic sally it is.

Pierre Salinger, who wrote the foreword for Qaddafi's short-story collection, is of course the famed reporter-turned-Kennedy Administration official-turned-appointed Senator from California-turned-reporter-turned-conspiracy theorist worryingly reminiscent of Maniwa from Paranoia Agent. With his gushing attitude towards the work, Salinger betrays either an excessively loose adherence to his own culture's political mores (such as representative democracy, an independent judiciary, minority rights, or the rule of law), poor literary taste unfortunate given his apparent distant relation to the author of Franny and Zooey and The Catcher in the Rye, or both. I'm going to go with both, for now, and get on to the bulk of the Colonel's work.

Escape to Hell's title story is one of the few with anything like a recognisable plot, although it is really more like a broad-strokes historical fable describing the urbanisation of Arab/North African culture in the modern age, a process of which the author disapproves. Thematically it is similar in this respect to a certain subset of classic Westerns, though I do not doubt that the author and, for instance, John Wayne would fall in hate at first sight. It is by no means badly-written--it is spare and has a certain grim elegance similar to that of the desert that Qaddafi calls home--and its themes, unlike the themes of pretty much everything else in the Qaddafi ouevre, can be reasonably defended as serious literary explorations of alienation and the demysitification of the world.

After this, the only part of the book that can really be classified as a story, Qaddafi abandons plot, characters, dialogue, and the other markers of narrative writing in favour of a more stream-of-conscious, almost Gonzo style, with which he tells the stories of, among other things, his own childhood, a shady pharmacist in Benghazi who moonlights as a drug dealer (it is clear that Qaddafi was under the influence of this gentleman's wares when he wrote about him), Operation El Dorado Canyon (though only in passing), and a family of Touaregs that he claims to know but which may well be yet another surprising use of actual fiction in this ostensible short-story collection.

Escape into Hell is not a good book in the conventional sense, but it is an interesting book and at least not as horribly written and utterly unengrossing as many other tyrants' screeds, such as Qaddafi's own non-fictional (in the same way that Escape into Hell is fictional, which is to say not very) Green Book. The foreword reveals worrying things about Pierre Salinger, the title story reminds one somewhat of a desert Charles Portis albeit one who is phoning it in, and the rest of the book is useful for its glimpse into the mind and self-justifications and rationalisations of the man whose name is so commonly followed by '--must go now' in the news these days.

Also, 'Pierre Salinger, who wrote the foreword for Qaddafi's short-story collection' is the second most surprising-even-to-me phrase I have written to-day, after 'Unleash nerd rage: Target: Neil Gaiman'.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A poem for Lent: Parts XXXIV-L of I-known-not-what


Diesel’s scent, warm, billowing
wrapped up in its own thing like an identity
wafts over a tangled country
like a chessboard

The water, the swamp, the trees
the housing blocks, the baseball
diamonds, the post-industrial lots
and haze, crash together
mingled crazily and without form, without
            lot or consequence
Something unearthly, something
            less than everyday yet
            in this world, totally so
            totally there.

Electrical supercharged on
towards Connecticut, the train
charges along the twisted scope
of the sound-shore.

The sky is blue, too blue
            as if smiling
it looks to scorn the shade and cool
of the sombre trails of illusory
half-substantial draperies

—As the damasked robes
            of a wandering ghost.


Returning to the town
of the green-on-the-whitesward
            O bells clanging
            for compline!

The sun crashes down
            whitely, whitely
—Over an edge
            serrated, separated
A human work of
common spaces and block-jagged

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A poem for Lent: Parts XVII-XXXIII of NANI DESU KA?!


Now it’s sunset
it’s springtime
almost, and in sunset-beams
the cat’s curled up
on the mattress asleep.

From the cold
without penitence
or need to repent
his pre-Adamite depth.

Still chilly but
with snow now gone
paving crazy in
thawing streets
the wind is a blessing.

In the wind’s
the record of the spring
wind is the record
of the autumn wind.

Spring and autumn
the seasons for norms
the months with neither
beach-holidays nor

Winter and summer
the seasons for Norns
one gone one not
realised but wanting
to be frozen.

Stamp up and down
now it’s cold rock-hard
now it’s soft soil
waiting for the
gardener’s hand.


There is an unveiling of svelte loveliness throughout the town.
Without asking, simply look and watch as the spring air lights up.
There are no fireflies yet, not for several months in these parts.
But even so the sudden lightness into the evening bravely blazes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A poem for Lent: Parts I through XVI of I-know-not-how-many.

Yes, this is indeed what I am doing for Lent. I'm going to add to it every day between now and Easter. This is what I have so far.

Lencten Tide
By Nathan Turowsky


Reluctant eyes watched
            Through the skies’ frames and the snowmelt
                        on the Holyoke Range

Turbulence of reality unveils its greyness
Under putative silence of spanning stone.
Eye of God to eye of man
Off the waves two worlds connect.
Something’s secret behind the nerves
There—Deep, deeply.

The ground is yet white
It is an underskirt layer
That is green.

Red banded wings
            set out over still water
Not the deep river and not
            the cold Quabbin
Under a quivering cast of stratus
As they would in the golden world.

In Kendrick Park
The nudity of the trees stands suddenly
Over earth’s similar nudity
In front of the pitched roofed Capes.

From remaining ecstasy of snow
Brush buds carmine-purple
Standing along the highway
                                    tin soldiers.

Light come down
            as love is
So that on
            the high-flung
With the joy
            of dancing
We may catch
            its florid


Once my heart made a sound
Like a little starling nested
            in the wall, not reaching
            down into the hollow…

Not here not there here everywhere
Kindness, space of the eye.