Woah! Sorry about the Spam! Yikes!

I hate that the first post in months (over a year, actually) is to apologize from spam that came from my email address, but that’s what I have to do. Somehow, spammers compromised my email address, and used it to send thousands of messages before my service provider blocked the account. Unfortunately, it took me several weeks to find out because I had been using the same account to keep in contact with my provider, so all I saw was an empty Inbox.

So, I’m very sorry, but hopefully, I’ve re-secured my account.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Was I Thinking? Madison Square Garden?

As interesting a concept it was, attempting to get to Madison Square Garden before my 35th birthday didn’t seem to interest me, once I tried to get it rolling.

(Of course, given that even this ‘blog hasn’t seen an update since December, you might assume that nothing has interested me since the time I was supposed to launch the ThreeTwenty14 project.)

While I sat around trying to decide how to lay out the early stages of the project—including audio recordings of phone conversations with representatives of Madison Square Garden and a well-researched estimate of the cost of renting Madison Square Garden—I found myself procrastinating by working on other creative pursuits. Nearly a year later, I’m looking at 1200 pages of text I’ll probably call a novel, assuming I don’t end up editing it down and cutting-and-pasting it into a couple novels. (Saying that a bunch of text that could either be one cohesive narrative or two separate narratives doesn’t make it sound that great, does it? Who cares? I’m happy!)

So, to avoid getting down to work on the project at hand, I ended up with something I’ve really wanted. The Madison Square Garden thing wasn’t a waste, after all. (Besides, it was only supposed to be something to give me something to write about. I wrote. I wrote a lot: just not about what I planned to be writing about.)

So, that’s that. And, oh yeah. I’m not dead, by the way. ;-)

Posted in Personal, Writing | Leave a comment

Adventures in Advertising, Part 1: The Psych Ward (With Grants)

Today, Facebook decided I might be interested in “going back to school to study psychology with grants[.]” Well, I hadn’t been thinking about that, but isn’t the goal of advertising to be convincing? So, let’s see.

Adventures in Advertising, Part 1: The Psych Ward

Facebook ad delivered December 14, 2011.

Okay. The idea of a grant is always interesting. Grants are free money, and free money is always interesting, and therefore, grants are always interesting.

And, psychology? Though I don’t already have a degree in psychology, one of my Bachelor’s degrees is in social science, and…

All right, all right. No need to get pushy! I do see the picture they put with the ad. I just thought it’d be funny if… Okay, okay! I’ll move on! Happy?

The face of the future of psychology.

Psychology's Future (With Grants)

Anyway, let’s start with the picture. Wow!

Okay. Maybe it’s a bit harsh, perhaps even prejudicial, to say it’s not too clear whether the person in this picture is supposed to represent the targeted audience or the targeted audience’s potential patient should they (the audience) go back to school to become a psychologist.

But, what were they going for when they chose that picture?

If this picture is supposed to represent the targeted audience—and I really think it is—then I hope the targeted audience is at least a bit offended. What this picture says to me about the marketing geniuses behind this advertising gold (other than that said “geniuses” are, in fact, morons) is that they: 1) know that people who need to go “back to school” are often unemployed; and, 2) believe that the unemployed most likely resemble the archetypal “slacker” or “stoner.”

I mean, this guy’s one missed shower away from Nick Nolte levels of brilliance!

While it might be wrong to say the gentleman in the photo is a likely poster boy for the psych ward, I do think it’s safe to say that he could be a copywriter who would use both a dangling modifier and a comma splice in an advertisement related to higher education.[1]

What lovely grammar you have there.

Oh yes! Study with a grant! Maybe you can copy off it, especially if it knows the difference between a comma and a period.

“People are going back to school to study Psychology with grants, would you go back if you qualified?”

Not only are people going back to school to study “Psychology,” but they’re studying alongside grants. If this were true, maybe I should reconsider studying psychology in such an environment. If anything, I would either get to witness an abstract concept taking lecture notes, or I would get to meet the kind of person who refuses to capitalize his name —indeed, several people who all have the same preference with regard to a name they all share in common (“grants”). Amazing!

(Perhaps the lowercase grants contingent is just making a statement about the misuse of capitalization in English. Take “Psychology,” for example…)

If it were just a dangling modifier, I could let it slide. They’re usually not even that bad, but even when they are, at least you get to hear about mothers feasting on their children or elephants wearing Groucho Marx’s pajamas. (If you have to ask…) Indeed, I might never have noticed the “with-grants” dangler had the comma splice not been shouting and screaming, “Hey! Look over here! I alert thee to my incompetence, I’m a real bad boy.”

Most usage errors really don’t matter. In fact, many pronouncements from “Grammar Nazis” are based, on some level, in racism or classism. True, I keep electronic copies of Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage and the amazing Garner’s Modern American Usage close at hand at all times.[2] However, I do not care whether or not you keep them. So, you fucked up your subjunctive mood? If I was you, I wouldn’t worry about it! You used “they” as a neutral singular pronoun? Great, because an Anglophone needs one when they don’t want to be wordy, clumsy, or sexist! You conjugate the verb “to be” in a new and interesting way? Keep doing it, because it be beautiful!

By all means, dangle your prepositions, split your infinitives, restrict your which-es, and non-restrict your thats—and don’t consider revising your sentence fragments[3].

But bloody hell, don’t splice your sentences with commas!

Unlike the dangling modifier, you’ll never smirk at the implications of the comma splice. Unlike the sentence fragment, you’ll never feel like something has been emphasized with shocking effect.[4] (Actually, a sentence fragment is probably as close as you can get to the opposite of a comma splice.)

The comma splice is evil. Just about every other so-called grammatical error can be justified in certain cases. The comma splice can never work. No, not even in some kind of stream-of-consciousness or rambling-dialog mode. In fact, if that’s the effect you want, you’d be better served by splicing the sentence with nothing at all than with a comma. The comma is just too weak for the job of unaided splicing, especially when the semi-colon is out there just for that purpose. If you use a comma splice, even James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Jacques Derrida will get together, and over drinks, laugh at you for hours until they’re too drunk to “run on” a sentence (or twenty) effectively.

Not even Dan Brown—in describing a world traveling Harvard professor who has never heard of CERN, in explaining concepts through the clunkiest expository dialog ever, and in general, committing all manner of crimes against fiction—would stoop to the use of the comma splice.

But, the representatives of “Psychology” (with grants) not only revel in the comma splice, but they’ve also spliced together two sentences of completely different types: a simple declarative and a question. How? Why?

Here is what I so hope happened. I really hope the boss of the copywriter responsible asked that the advertisement make its point in one sentence—say, for quick, hard-hitting impact. On not being able to fit the desired message into one nice sentence, our hero the copywriter simply changed a period to a comma.

Even more, I hope that upon reading the “sentence,” the boss gave the “okay” to run the ad, pride welling up in his/her (see what I mean about using “they” as a neutral singular pronoun?) heart for this grammatically creative employee: with spunk. (This boss actually likes spunk[5], and I mean that in the most innocent sense possible.)

Adventures in Advertising, Part 1: The Psych Ward

I was afraid you'd forgotten what I was talking about, so here it is again. (Yeah, I forgot, too.)

In the end, I simply can’t imagine the factors that came together to produce this almost-so-unbelievable-you’d-expect-it-was-done-for-ironic-effect marketing masterpiece. It’s an appeal to those who might be interested in bettering themselves through higher education, and yet its picture condescendingly mocks the very audience it’s trying to entice. Worse, as self-appointed spokespeople for “higher education,” the advertisers make one incredibly egregious error (the comma splice), one somewhat common error (the dangling modifier), and one potentially forgivable error (the capitalization of “Psychology”)[6]: all with only 18 words! If I were once again in the market for a “higher education solution,” I’d have made up my mind in the negative about whatever institution is behind this advertisement before having made it to the only closing punctuation in two sentences (the wondrous implications of “student grants” actually being “grants who are students” notwithstanding).

Would that it were that all advertising for shoddy goods and services were so flagrantly terrible. We might all be healthier, wealthier, and wiser if the effectiveness of advertisements was directly connected to the product’s actual, intrinsic value. But, we have to live in the reality we have. I would just like to thank whoever came up with the ad under scrutiny here for reflecting the quality in the advertising itself. Rest assured, your ad is most effective (or, at least, it causes some kind of effect).

On Correcting Me

Before I close, I realize people love to pick apart the grammar of someone who has just picked apart the grammar of another. Keep this in mind. I will not edit your comment if you find any of my errors. But, I will simply edit this blog post, and then reply to your comment with, “What are you talking about? I don’t see such an error. Do you?”

End Notes

Quick note: If you didn’t check out the end notes at the point you came across their references, you can click the number below to return to the text, in case you don’t remember what it’s referring to.

  • [1] I know you know what dangling modifiers and comma splices are. I’m not going to explain them because I think you’re not familiar with things that should be known by anyone who makes it to 9th grade. I’m going to explain them because I just like pointing out the obvious. So… A dangling modifier is a word or phrase placed in the wrong position in a sentence, causing it to seem like it is modifying the wrong word or phrase. So, in our example, “with grants” is supposed to be an absolute construction (absolute construction just means that the phrase modifies a whole sentence, and not any particular word or phrase in the sentence). By “dangling” it at the end of the sentence, it becomes ambiguous, and could mean that the grants also study psychology. Placing “with grants” at the beginning of the sentence would have cleared up the ambiguity. A comma splice is just plain wrong: no ambiguity about that! It is the connecting (or splicing) together of two complete sentences with a comma but without a required conjunction (and, but, or). Nothing good ever comes out of a comma splice.
  • [2] Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is absolute trash! I don’t say this just because they are a couple of asses. Henry Fowler was a right arse, himself. The difference between Fowler and Strunk/White is that Fowler actually had sound advice to go along with his haughty condescension. Strunk and White couldn’t even recognize the passive voice 75% of the time. (How can I be that precise? Read the article “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice” at the Chronicle of Higher Education.) So, throw it away. Now! If you don’t, I’m going to write even longer sentences, just to make you angry.
  • [3] Suck it, Microsoft Word!
  • [4] If you’re judicious with its usage, a sentence fragment can be like a super-duper modifier or response to the previous sentence. If you thought sticking something after a colon was cool (it kind of is, actually), try completely ending your sentence and then having a fragment, even a single word, stand alone. Breathtaking!
  • [5] If you don’t get that reference, you should petition Nick@Nite to bring back actual classic television. Next, you’ll be telling me that if I were to say, “As God is my witness— I thought turkeys could fly,” you would not begin laughing hysterically for about 15 minutes; or worse, you’d be perplexed if anybody called me “Diane” because of what I’ve been writing in this Blog entry.
  • [6] Without the other two fairly critical errors, capitalizing “Psychology” isn’t too bad. Certainly, in the context it is wrong, because it is discussing “psychology” as a subject (never capitalized) to be studied. If they had meant it as a major or a department, it would be capitalized.
Posted in Adventures in Advertising, Humor | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Barack Obama Campaign Strategies

With support drying up, even from the Left, Barack Obama is looking to get out the vote anyway he can. Unfortunately, many of those he could count on for support have been so disillusioned by the continuing status quo that they could be just as likely to stay home on Election Day as they would be to vote.

So, it comes as no surprise that the current strategy is to help Newt Gingrich get the Republican nomination over potentially more difficult political adversaries, like Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

For if Republicans choose Newt Gingrich as their 2012 candidate, the Obama campaign would only have to run this political ad throughout the whole election season to be effective.

Posted in Opinion, Politics | 3 Responses

Only Hipsters Know Irony

The short comic "Only Hipsters Know Irony"

"Only Hipsters Know Irony," writing and "art" by J. David Ramsey

Posted in Exercises, Opinion, Philosophy, Writing | Leave a comment

No Surviving World War I Veterans for 11-11-11: Armistice / Veterans Day

Page one heading for the November 11th, 1918 edition of the New York Times

Page one heading for the November 11th, 1918 edition of the New York Times

Today is Veterans Day in America, known to much of the world as Armistice Day. In America, as in Europe, the date 11/11 marks the end of The Great War: World War I. Over 65 million combatants participated in this bloody war, which claimed almost 10 million lives. It saw the end of centuries-old dynasties — Hohenzollern (Germany), Romanov (Russian), and Hapsburg (Austria) — and it saw the end of continent-spanning empires — Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman. It saw the stirrings of ideological fanaticism — Fascism, Bolshevism, and Nazism — and it set the scene for tyrannical dictators — Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler.

A Bunch of Elevens... Really?

Do a bunch of 11's really matter? Is this really what's important?

While today is Veterans Day — and while many are honoring the veterans of past and present wars — many still are marveling at the oddity of the appearance of today’s date: 11-11-11.

Numerology nuts are going crazy, telling us the date is significant and mystical just because of all the elevens, or perhaps even all the ones. (I suppose we can never have that many elevens or ones in our date, excepting of course November 11th, 2111, 1111, 111, 3111, 11111, etc., etc., etc.)

Many more are just revealing that they’re quite easily amused: “Huh, huh. Three Elevens. Wasn’t there a band called that? lol :P omg [etc., etc., etc.]”

There’s a difference between meaningful significance and curious coincidence, though.

11-11-11 is the first Veterans/Armistice Day without a surviving World War I combat veteran.

According to The Washington Post, the “last combat veteran of World War I,” Claude Choules, died at age 110 on May 5th, 2011.[1]

In other words, all the World War I veterans’ stories that ever will be told have been told. We now know everything that will be known about what it was like to sing carols and play football with “the enemy” during the 1914 Christmas Truce. We know everything that will be known about life in the Western Front trenches or amongst the Arabs fighting for independence from the Ottoman Empire. Nothing new will be learned about the reactions of Russian soldiers to the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s subsequent early exit from the war. No more Americans will talk about going “Over There,” and no more British or French soldiers will talk about Americans joining them “over here.”

Of all wars, it is saddest to lose the perspectives of the soldiers, sailors, and aviators of World War I. The Great War revealed the utter meaninglessness underlying wars of empire and greed. The major players cynically “honored alliances” in what became a shameful grab for empire and chance for revenge.[2] Millions died, and nearly a whole generation was “lost,” yet few knew for what they had fought. Those who did were even more disillusioned, realizing their nation’s scheming and dishonesty.

While we still have our World War II veterans to remind us to courageously stand up in the face of tyranny and evil ideology, we no longer have our World War I veterans to remind us to rationally step back in the face of avarice and nationalistic chauvinism.

Not to spoil the fun of those worried about the spiritual importance of eleven, but today we need to pay heed to the real significance of this Veterans / Armistice Day in particular. Absolutely, let us show our respect to all of our courageous veterans from all wars and conflicts, honoring them for their sacrifices and bravery. However, let us resolve to remember what the generation of World War I, now unequivocally resigned to pure history, tried to show us throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries.

Claude Choules, 1937

Claude Choules, Last WWI Veteran, c. 1937

I leave you with the closing paragraphs of Claude Choules’s obituary. The last WWI veteran had much to teach us.

Despite the fame his military service brought him, Mr. Choules later in life became a pacifist who was uncomfortable with anything that glorified war. He disagreed with the celebration of Anzac Day, Australia’s most important war memorial holiday, and refused to march in parades held each year to mark the holiday.

“I had a pretty poor start,” he told a reporter in 2009. “But I had a good finish.”

Footnotes

  • [1] Though, we should remember there were many non-state or imperial soldiers who were never on official rosters, such as the Arabs who fought with the British against the Ottoman Empire. It’s possible there could be survivors amongst these contingents, especially considering it would be more likely much younger fighters would have been involved in these situations. (Click here to return to main text.)
  • [2] The Entente Allies (Britain, France, and Russia) were actually as guilty on these points as the Central Powers (perhaps, even more than). They had carved up the Middle East and Turkey long before the end of the war was in sight. Far from wanting to assist Serbian allies (Russia), to honor a Russian alliance (France), and to stand up for Belgian sovereignty (Britain), the main concern of all these “Great Powers” was new imperial lands. This is not to say Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire were not “in the market,” as it were. (Click here to return to main text.)
Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

Madison Square Garden in 2 1/2 Years – threetwenty14.com

When you decide to leave the job you’ve had for years, it is good to be prepared for “what comes next,” right? Better job offer. Great business idea. University graduate program.

Madison Square Garden Performance

My plan is to develop a musical act that will achieve enough clout to play Madison Square Garden: before 3/20/14. Obviously, it is a financially sound plan. If you can play Madison Square Garden, you’re able to generate a lot of money. The costs alone of playing MSG means you will at least have to make that much to break even. Let me tell you. It’s a lot of money!

(You’ll see my research and interviews leading to my discovery of the cost for renting Madison Square Garden after the launch of threetwenty14.com on 9/20/2011.)

What have I done to get ready for this 2 1/2 year experiment? Well, I’ve bought a domain name, registered a Twitter account, and joined the “Blogosphere.” What I do not have are songs written, artist representation, or existing reputation. Ah, but this is all part of the experiment. The whole process must take place before March 20th, 2014. All I have to start with are my existing talent as a songwriter and musician, and the image of what “rock stardom” is, given to us by media and marketing.

Madison Square Garden is a symbol for everything else that comes with performing there. It is probably close to the truth to say it is the most famous venue in the world, especially for large scale performances by musical artists. I could have said my goal is to effectively develop a career in music, learning the hard truths about what it really takes to achieve things like a successful album or concert tour. I could even abstract all that, and just say I want to become a rock star. Naming Madison Square Garden as the goal, however, encompasses all of the above, while giving a concrete measure to judge the success of the project.

Success or failure, I will cover the entire project on threetwenty14.com as well as through social media outlets, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google +. I’ll be interviewing insiders and top musicians about their experiences and for their advice. Don’t worry. I’ll also “show my work” throughout the process, giving audio and video of the music and act as it develops.

I’m confident in my technical ability as a musician and performer, but this project is about much more than just “making it big.” We’ve all seen the documentaries or read the biographies about our favorite artists. These inevitably touch on the process of “making it.” Some of us have read the insider books that lay out the structure of “the industry.” What I have never seen, but would love to, is an ongoing story taking place during the process itself, from inception to conclusion. What is it like to go through the creative process? What is it like to learn “the music industry”? What is it like to “develop an image”?

What is it like to chase a dream? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.

So, keep an eye on this blog, as well as the Twitter account @threetwenty14, for news leading up to the launch of threetwenty14.com on 9/20/2011. I’ll be revealing some of my interviews and research I’ve already conducted and prepared for the launch, as well as keeping you posted about technical developments, such as site design and features and ways to interact with me and the project.

It’s going to be exciting.

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

Egypt’s Uncertain Future

The Egyptian people have thrown off the yoke of tyranny in a glorious and peaceful revolution. It is not an overstatement to say what happened on 11 February 2011 will be remembered as one of the single most important events of the 21st century. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ignored, subverted, or oppressed the will of the Egyptian people for 30 years, and his resignation marks the beginning of a new era for Egypt, the Middle East, and the world.

Still, worldwide media outlets remind us to remember that this event marks the beginning of a potentially turbulent time, even as they share with the world the joy of elated Egyptians celebrating in the aptly named Tahrir (Liberation) Square. From Al-Jazeera to the BBC, experts speak of the difficulties the revolution will face now that the first major hurdle towards self-determination has been cleared. Most of the other reputable news agencies have been just as responsible, carefully putting forth possibilities which the Egyptian movement should be concerned about.

And then there was Fox News.

Fox News is renowned for its “no-holds-barred” journalism, endearing itself to many “salt-of-the-earth,” “no-nonsense” Americans. Where other media outlets tiptoe around touchy subjects, Fox News bashes right in like a drunken slam dancer. It always has the truth “in its sights,” and will not give up until it has its “kill shot.” The revolution in Egypt has been no exception.

An artist rendering of a possible scene from a hypothetical episode of The Glenn Beck Show

A careful artist rendering of a scene from The Glenn Beck Show.

Fox News journalists have been quick and consistent to point out potential dangerous outcomes of the Egyptian revolution. Respected newsmen such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity warn that this uprising could “easily” descend down a spiral that ends in an Islamist-inspired republic, perhaps like Iran. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood may subvert the revolution, much like Khomeini did in 1979 Iran, or at the very least, these groups may abuse a new democracy to gain majority power, much like Hamas did in 2006 Gaza. In fact, the men and women of Fox News have been the only reporters brave enough to point out that the Muslim Brotherhood, by their relatively marginal role in Egypt’s revolution, are “playing it safe” and are most likely behind everything!

We have to respect the audacity of Fox News, having “the guts” to give us such bittersweet medicine. However, I criticize them for not going far enough!

There are other logically valid [1] concerns that are equally [2] as concerning as a potential Egyptian Islamic Republic. While we must credit Fox News for “telling it as they see it”—ofttimes going to lengths other news outlets refuse to have the nerve for—even they are unable or unwilling to see the vastness of the dangers that threaten the Egyptian people and the world!

Luckily, I am not as cautious as that bastion of journalistic integrity that is Fox News. I understand they have to maintain a modicum of restraint, even when they are bravely eschewing outdated modes of liberal-biased, restricting standards. However, what good is journalistic restraint when it forces us to avoid the “really tough questions”? Being the mavericks they are, they surely realize we should be equally as worried about certain other eventualities as we should be about the potential of an Islamist takeover in Egypt.

But, even mavericks have to pay the bills.

Fortunately, I am completely self-funded, and do not have to appease readers who may not be comfortable with a full disclosing of the scope of difficulties which we should pay as much attention to as we do to the potential for an Islamic Republic of Egypt.

So, in the spirit of the best Fox News has to offer, I present with no apologies the scary truth: the possibilities equally as frightening as the likelihood of an Islamist controlled Egypt!

1. Egypt as a Church of Elvis Theocracy

Imagine the streets of Cairo, in a state of the most dreadful pollution. Not the pollution of barely constrained industry and woefully congested traffic; but rather, a Cairo beset by unbearable light pollution:

The pollution of tens of millions of reflective rhinestones and sequins!

The Hunka-Hunka Burnin' Leader

The Hunka-Hunka Burnin' Leader standing before his oppressed masses of Suspicious Minds.

Yes, the unemployed and poverty stricken might believe “The King’s” sincerity when he talks about life “in the ghetto.” Little do they know that forces out of their control could be conspiring to bring about an unprecedented marriage between religion, state, and Vegas showmanship. By buying into the sweet sounds of Elvis Presley, the people of Egypt may welcome into their house the vampire that is the Church of Elvis. This insidious organization, reputedly bent on conversion “at the point of the shaking hips,” will stop at nothing to institute its rock ‘n’ rites on an unsuspecting world. You can bet the farm that they are looking for a way to capitalize on the uncertainty in the great Egyptian civilization!

Perhaps some fear Egyptians may soon be forced to dress in traditional modes, galabiyya and hijab. I ask you, though. Would this be any worse than the forced donning of unbuttoned jumpsuits and poodle skirts? It could happen, if the Church of Elvis has its way!

Economic vitality will dry up once the Church of Elvis institutes its most vile restriction on appearance: forced pompadour haircuts! The time it will take for men to maintain these dastardly-dos will surely hamper industrial efficiency.

Foreign policy ramifications? Well! There is little doubt the Egyptian ambassador to the League of Arab States will eventually be reprimanded for responding to his colleague, lip-curling sneer firmly affixed to his chiseled face, with, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time!”

It is important we do everything we can to avoid this world, “all shook up.” So long as there’s “a little less conversation, and a little more action,” I have high hopes for an Egypt without the specter of fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich vendors and rampant violence against television sets. So, get off the pot (if you can)!

2. “Silly Party” Majority in Egyptian Parliament

Tarquin Fin - tim - lin - bin - whin - bim - lim - bus - stop - F'tang - F'tang -Olè-Biscuitbarrel

Tarquin Fin - tim - lin - bin - whin - bim - lim - bus-stop - F'tang - F'tang - Olé - Biscuitbarrel, on winning election as MP, Luton, Great Britain (1970).

Let’s say Egypt makes it through its interim period of military stewardship, and achieves its first fair elections. Just as Britain learned in 1970, however, democracy is a double-edged sword. According to an incisive 1970 Election Night Special, shown on the BBC, the British “Silly Party” made significant gains in the makeup of British parliament.

It could happen in Egypt.

Imagine Egypt loses great swaths of its territory: Suez to Israel, the Aswan High Dam to Northern Sudan, and Alexandria to The Conch Republic. Why? Because a Silly Party controlled parliament only agrees to a defense budget if soldiers are only trained in the art of fish slapping combat. Would a Silly Party majority really do this? Well, the immanently respectable BBC seems to suggest this, for during the same series featuring the aforementioned “Election Night Special,” we get a glimpse of fish fighters at work.

Worse—and for something completely different and something nobody would ever expect—an Egypt controlled by the Silly Party may very well re-institute The Spanish Inquisition. Obviously, this would cause untold tensions between the government and religious authorities in Egypt, considering the heinous tortures the Spanish Inquisition inflicted on Muslims and Arab/Berber Christians in Andalusia. Although BBC footage suggests the methods of a Silly Party Spanish Inquisition may be less intense than the Inquisition of early modern Spain, it is a slap in the face, nonetheless. (And not with a fish, this time… Well, possibly not… Actually, yes, it will probably be with a fish.)

Finally, and perhaps most troubling of all, will be the inability of most Egyptians to actually understand the Silly Party. Yes, perhaps 10% will actually “get it.” And, sure, another 25% will pretend to love the Silly Party because it is “the thing to do,” often quoting the Party Lines verbatim in an effort to appear more “with it.” However, the ultimate intentions of the Silly Party will “go over the heads” of most Egyptians, who will deem the party, well:

Rather silly, indeed.

3. A Random Number Generator Replaces the Office of the President

Perhaps most frightening of all would be the absolute institutionalization of chaos. There is a possibility Egypt could replace the office of president, so corrupted by the stain of Hosni Mubarak, with a random number generator. All possible numbers would be linked to an entry in a database corresponding to an action to be taken in foreign policy. All ambassadors and generals would be constitutionally bound to follow the dictates of the random number generator.

A bunch of numbers.

Random numbers generating random outcomes for Egyptian foreign policy.

Okay, so these so-called “chaos theorists” have sold the world a bill-of-goods about discernible “order in chaos.” Therefore, some might even welcome the emergence of a head of state that is truly random, believing randomness to be preferable to the designs of most of the world’s leaders—especially now that the world has had a thorough brainwashing by these post-modernist pseudo-scientists!

But, no! Can we really see order in Egypt demanding of Morocco 27.843 maroon plastic orations? (Yes, I did write “orations,” because this is most certainly a possibility for an absolutely random generator.) What about selling the Pyramid of Khufu to a bakery in Guatemala in exchange for a size extra-extra large, leopard-print, pre-stretched tube top, but only if the bakery operators ask nicely? Zahi Hawass would flip his wig!

Yes, perhaps Egyptians have been turned off by the concept of presidency, having had to suffer the long reign of Hosni Mubarak. However, they must be ever vigilant, lest they fall into the trap into which so many democratically minded people have fallen before: the drive to replace the head of state with a lottery machine!

Journalism at a New Level of Credibility

Since demonstrations began on that fateful January 25th, worldwide media have put the spotlight on Egypt. Many of the self-proclaimed “responsible” agencies have only provided a surface understanding of the potential problems Egypt may soon face. Fox News has had the courage to show the world the threat the revolution may hold to the world order, primarily in the Muslim Brotherhood and the potential for an Islamic Republic of Egypt. However, not a single agency—Fox News included—has had the respect for the public to show the possibilities we should be equally as worried about as we should be about the possibility of an Islamist Egypt.

I hope my readers appreciate my bold venture into revealing these frightening potentialities! It is only out of my concern for, and duty to all of us that I present these most troubling of possibilities.

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Notes:

[1] A logically valid statement is one in which the conclusion follows from the premises. The assumed but unstated primary premises are: 1) “It is not entirely impossible for things to happen that are physically possible”; 2) “Physically possible events can be assigned an approximate event probability”; 3) “Arbitrary categories (e.g., very likely, likely, unlikely) can be assigned to numeric ranges of event probabilities to group events into ranges of relative probability”; 4) “Given the set of all possible outcomes of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, each outcome can be given a numeric value indicating its approximate event probability”; 5) “The likelihood of an Egyptian Islamic Republic is a possible outcome of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution”; 6) “The event probability of an Egyptian Islamic Republic as the outcome of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution can be grouped into a range that includes other outcomes with event probabilities that fall within the same arbitrary definition of the subset.”

[2] See premise 6 in note 1.

Update, September, 2012

So, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated party did get a president elected, and few people in Egypt are happy with Mubarak’s military flunkies still holding great power. But, hey! It’s still not an Islamic Republic of Egypt, by any means. Besides, I was writing in reaction to the at-the-time-unfounded fear mongering going on in February 2011, mostly by idiots like Glenn Beck.

Whatever has happened, and whatever will happen, you must admit that the Hunka-Hunka-Burnin Leader bit was pretty hilarious.

Posted in Middle East and Islam | Leave a comment

The Tea Party (and other “Discontents without Contents”)

Recently, I’ve noticed many people in my area have adopted the Gadsden Flag as a symbol of some sort of affiliation or sympathy. Many cars around here have bumper stickers featuring this flag—it even flies beneath the American flag in front of several houses and businesses.

(By the way, for those of you who do not know, the Gadsden Flag features a coiled snake on a field of yellow, captioned with “Don’t Tread on Me.” It was one of the early symbols of the American Revolutionary period, symbolizing colonial opposition to policies enacted on America by Britain, without colonial representation.)

I assume these flag flaunting enthusiasts are showing association with one of the various “grass roots” opposition groups, of which the “Tea Partiers” and “9-12′ers” may be most familiar. However, in their scramble to take on a symbol of the American Revolution, I think they may have acted too quickly. The slogan “Don’t Tread on Me” is surely far too broad for their intended purposes.

So, in an effort to help the Tea Partiers, and other “Discontents without Contents,” say what they really mean, I have created a modified Gadsden Flag for them!

Behold!

Gadsden Flag with long list of exclusions from the Dont Tread on Me plea.

Tea Partiers need to be careful, after all.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , | 4 Responses

Western WikiIdol (Works Cited)

Proponents of Wikipedia often speak in hyperbolic terms about its ability to democratize knowledge and present “the collective knowledge of humanity.” (In fact, the latter is the claim of one of Wikipedia’s founders, Jimmy Wales.) Given I have a strong bias towards post-structural thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, as well as subjectivist and activist historians such as Howard Zinn, Wikipedia should be “just my cup of tea.” After all, it keeps meaning “in play,” as Jacques Derrida might say, never remaining static, never becoming a false “logos.” (That’s Derrida’s jargon for “meanings change, as they do by nature.”)

On the other hand, I am one of those feared “leftist, academic elitist” types who obviously thinks he knows what is best for the world, even if the rest of the world doesn’t think so. One of my crazy Leftist-Neo-Anarcho-Syndicalist-Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Harvard-ian ideas is that any claims should be backed up by evidence. In the radical world of academia, we often do this by citing our sources in little communistic manifestos we confusingly call by names such as “works cited,” “bibliographies,” “footnotes,” and “references.”

(Since this article will mention Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, I should point out that the previous paragraph was ironic. I fear too many mentions of Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson may cause this post to be found via Google searches for Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson. Spice Girls, Spice Girls, Britney Spears, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, J-Lo, Jennifer Lopez. Oh, and Britney Spears.)

Wikipedia, in case anybody does not know, is an Encyclopedia that contains articles completely maintained by the general public. If one user makes an edit another user believes is false or otherwise inappropriate, the article can be edited again by the new user. Users are encouraged to cite sources, and if none or few are cited, then the community or the Wiki software itself will let users know the article may be unreliable.

Of course, since it is theoretically democratic, Wikipedia will likely have more user activity within articles in which more people are interested. However, the claim is that the Wiki method will eventually create a superior source of general knowledge than closed, academic ventures, such as Brittanica.

Concerned (read: very, very bored), I developed a completely non-scientific preliminary test to gauge how reputable Wikipedia stands at this moment in time. I created a subjective list of the 35 most influential thinkers of Western Civilization, as well as a subjective list of 35 pop culture icons. Since my flawed leftist ideology leads me into an uncompromising stance that claims backed up by adequate citation are preferable to little or no citation, I decided to compare the number of footnotes for each entry, and then make some entirely preliminary, and likely specious, arguments for what I believe the data shows us.

Here is my list of 35 influential Western thinkers:

Plato, Aristotle, St. Paul, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Francis Bacon, John Calvin, Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, John Locke, David Hume, Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, Mary Woolstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, William James, Sigmund Freud, Willard Van Orman Quine, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, John Dewey, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Steve Wozniak, Richard Rorty, John Rawls, and Stephen Hawking.

Here is my list of 35 mega pop-stars:

The Spice Girls, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Beyonce Knowles, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Lance Bass, Jessica Simpson, Zach Efron, Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton, Jennifer Lopez, Mandy Moore, Robbie Williams, Victoria Beckham, Avril Lavigne, Pink, Eminem, T.I., Lil Wayne, Amy Winehouse, Sanjaya (yes, that Sanjaya), Carrie Underwood, the Jonas Brothers, Mariah Carey, Fall Out Boy, Celine Dion, Clay Aiken, Blink182, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Hicks, Kevin Federline, Kid Rock, and Nichole Ritchie.

And, the raw counts:

Thinkers Pop-Stars
Charles Darwin – 167 Britney Spears – 186
Werner Heisenberg – 164 Christina Aguilera – 168
Martin Luther – 128 Amy Winehouse – 167
Albert Einstein – 115 Beyonce Knowles – 156
Adam Smith – 93 Mariah Carey – 143
Mary Woolstonecraft – 92 Robbie Williams – 142
St. Paul – 88 Celine Dion – 134
Friedrich Nietzsche – 83 The Spice Girls – 124
Immanuel Kant – 82 Victoria Beckham – 114
David Hume – 68 Mandy Moore – 97
Ludwig Wittgenstein – 67 Clay Aiken – 89
John Calvin – 64 Lance Bass – 89
St. Augustine – 63 Miley Cyrus – 89
Thomas Aquinas – 63 Paris Hilton – 88
Plato – 58 Eminem – 86
Sigmund Freud – 53 Justin Timberlake – 86
Martin Heidegger – 52 Kanye West – 84
Aristotle – 51 Sanjaya – 84
Karl Marx – 49 Avril Lavigne – 80
Isaac Newton – 47 The Jonas Brothers – 74
Francis Bacon – 46 Kelly Clarkson – 71
Michel Foucault – 44 Lil Wayne – 65
Stephen Hawking – 34 Jessica Simpson – 59
Jacques Derrida – 31 Jennifer Lopez – 51
John Dewey – 26 Jennifer Hudson – 50
Voltaire – 19 Carrie Underwood – 48
Steve Wozniak – 16 Fall Out Boy – 46
John Locke – 15(!) Taylor Hicks – 44
Richard Rorty – 15 T.I. – 43
William James – 13(!) Pink – 42
John Stuart Mill – 13(!) Nichole Ritchie – 42
Jean-Paul Sartre – 13(!) Zach Efron – 35
Rene Descartes – 10(!!!) Kevin Federline – 29
John Rawls – 4 Kid Rock – 26
Willard Van Orman Quine – 3 Blink182 – 20

Before I continue, I want to point out one important finding. Sanjaya has more citations than the following people:

Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Calvin, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Plato, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Aristotle, Karl Marx, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Michel Foucault, Stephen Hawking, Jacques Derrida, Voltaire, Steve Wozniak, John Locke, Richard Rorty, William James, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Paul Sartre, Rene Descartes, John Rawls, and Willard Van Orman Quine.

SANJAYA!

The mean average of the number of citations for the important visionaries of Western Culture is approximately 56 (55.67). The mean average of the number of citations for the huge pop-icons of the last 10 years is approximately 85 (84.51).

Coincidentally, the ratio of the average thinker’s citations to the average pop-star’s citations is almost equal to the “Golden Ratio,” or 1:1.618. It actually came out to a ratio of approximately 1:1.590. That is more than convincing enough if we’re working in graphic design. (Those of you who found this post with the search term “Plato,” look for more on the “Golden Ratio” in the works of the Pythagoreans. Those of you who found this post with the search term “Jessica Simpson,” look for more on the “Golden Ratio” in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code.)

Now, I will admit that, given Wikipedia is a more or less laissez-faire affair, there is little surprise that the most scandalous, the most idolized, and the most contemporary articles will have more activity. This is even true with the thinkers, given that Charles Darwin tops the list. He and his theories are controversial, revered, and widely discussed in today’s world, encompassing all three factors. The same is true of Britney Spears, topping out on the pop-stars.

However, the claim is that Wikipedia will provide a superior resource, superseding closed projects by “experts,” and will become one of the premiere collections of human knowledge. The problem is, if I were in the market for a general knowledge encyclopedia, and found that the writers and researchers spent 60% more time writing entries for pop-stars than they did for the most important philosophers, scientists, and visionaries, I do not think I would buy it. Worse, if I learned the authors had spent 62 times as much effort on an article about Britney Spears than they did on Willard Van Orman Quine, I absolutely would not bother.

The irony of it all is, whether we realize it or not, our worldviews today directly reflect the combined influence of most or all of these thinkers. In a strange way, we might say the visionaries made it possible for 60% more effort to be put into pop-stars over the foundations of Western thought.

I will leave you with one sad note. In the beginning of the West’s fascination with encyclopedias, Diderot and Rousseau wrote articles for these enterprises. In the end, cutegGurl12 and LongDuckDong are writing our articles.

Posted in Personal, Philosophy | 3 Responses
  • It’s Okay to Like Me