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On Government

Sep. 18th, 2009 | 12:20 pm

Recently I had a discussion about government.  I was being criticized for my "extremist" views and positive views of anarchy:

"You characterize government as if it is a non-human entity. Government is simply a medium of man's inhumanity or humanity to man. Certainly men have shaped governments that have been extremely oppressive and violent. It's silly to think, however, that if you limited or ended "government" you could end violence or oppression by ending government. People cause violence against people regardless of the medium."


I responded as follows:

"I agree completely. The issue is that "government" so often manipulates men into giving it the moral high-ground and the authority to commit all the ills man can commit against man. This is especially bothersome when the majority rules. Further, when those in government manage to convince enough of the people that government alone must assume the responsibilities of protection and production... well... you know the Jeffersonian quotes and philosophy and you know the history that teaches the philosophy by example.

My contention is that you either need the just, philosopher-kings Plato wanted, a complete elimination of The State to be replaced with an anarcho-capitalist system, or a reinstitution of the system Iceland had way back when.... which, from my understanding, was kinda similar to this Seastedding initiative that Milton Friedman's grandson is pushing. The problem I have with government is that it bestows authority to flawed men over other flawed men. That authority must either be eliminated as the anarchist want, dispersed effectively as our founders wanted, or entrusted to men capable of handling it such as the philosopher-kings.


Here's a quote from J R R Tolkein on the messy issue which we're now discussing:

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ monarchy . . . Anyway, the proper study of man is anything but man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. And at least it is done only to a small group of men who know who their master is. The medievals were only too right in taking nolo episcopari as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop. Give me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you care to call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line. But, of course, the fatal weakness of all that — after all only the fatal weakness of all good things in a bad corrupt unnatural world — is that it works and has worked only when all the world is messing along in the same good old inefficient human way."





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District 9

Aug. 30th, 2009 | 04:47 pm

District 9 was fucking excellent. I think if Aldous Huxley and Franz Kafka got together for beer and Halo, and then decided to write a sci-fi script this is what they would have come up with. It was a dystopian, anti-government, flick about alienation. The Metamorphosis meets A Brave New World. And a fuckload of people and cars blew up too. And the only completely honorable character wasn't a human.  The pacing and the camera work were excellent.  Neill Blomkamp made it feel like you're actually part of the action.  It was a perfect movie for so many reasons.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

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Dylan

Aug. 25th, 2009 | 01:48 pm

Rank these Dylan albums:

Bob Dylan

Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Times They Are a-Changin'

Another Side of Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home

Highway 61 Revisited

Blonde on Blonde

Blood on the Tracks


They're all excellent albums.  Here are my rankings of Dylan albums listed in chronological order with a bit of an explanation:

7. Bob Dylan - Bob's version of Man of Constant Sorrow is excellent.  His version of See That My Grave is Kept Clean might be even better.  A 17 year old kid playing those epic folk and blues songs so well is..... mind-blowing.  And with Song to Woody we get a taste of his lyrical depth.  I can't imagine hearing this album when it was released - I just wouldn't have been able to contain my anticipation for his next.

2. Freewheelin' - Side one opens with one of Dylan's most popular songs, Blowin' in the Wind.  Side two opens with possibly the best breakup song ever written, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright.  Dylan gushes with enthusiasm and gratitude when he talks about how Elvis, Cash and Waylon Jennings all loved the song so much they felt the need to cover it out of respect.  Talkin' World War 3 Blues, Girl from the North Country, Master's of War, Hard Rain, Bob Dylan's Blues, Bob Dylan's Dream all come together to make this album my second favorite.

5. The Times They Are a-Changin' - Dylan wrote an excellent critique of nationalism in With God on Our Side and with Only a Pawn in Their Game he describes the state of race relations and how the poor white people are manipulated by those in power to hate and fear black folk.  And, of course, the album opens with his epic song "The Times They Are a-Changin'".  At only 23 years old, Dylan captured a spirit of cultural upheavel that he saw around him with daft elegance and biting force. 

6. Another Side of Bob Dylan - My Back Pages is the ultimate song about growing up, maturing and discovering that things are quite as simple as we once thought.  Dylan describes this aspect of life flawlessly.  It Ain't Me Babe tells every guy how to say "look, I'm just can't give you what you're looking for right now.  It's not you, really!  it's not!  It's me!"

1. Bringing It All Back Home - This album has Dylan's most scathing critique of the world around him, It's Alright Ma (I'm only Bleeding).  The lyrics are tremendous.  The album opens with one of Dylan's first electric songs too, Subterranean Homesick Blues.

4. Highway 61 Revisited - Opens with Dylan's most exciting song, Like a Rolling Stone.  During his Newport set in 1965 "an audience member shouts very loudly and clearly: "Judas!", to which Dylan replies: "I don't believe you, you're a liar" before telling his band to "Play it FUCKING loud!" as they begin to play an acidic version of "Like a Rolling Stone"  Gotta love him!

8. Blonde on Blonde - Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Just Like A Woman, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Rainy Day Woman.  Great stuff!  It gets extra points for being the first double album in rock music.  The music is unique mix of blues and what wiki calls an "eclectic" sound.

3. Blood on the Tracks - "Most of the lyrics on the album revolve around heartache, anger, and loneliness."  And they do so very well.  In If You See Her, Say Hello Dylan pours his heart out.  (I see a lot of people as I make the rounds / And I hear her name here and there as I go from town to town / And I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off / Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm gettin' soft.) In Tanged Up in Blue he tells an amazing story.  Idiot Wind he asks the question "what the hell are we doing to each other?"  You're a Big Girl Now he says "Do what you want... but please don't go!"  But he lightens up the mood with Shelter From the Storm and a playful Buckets of Rain to close the album.




I guess I should give his new albums a chance too.  His backing band now is absolutely superb!


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Everything Happens for a Reason

Aug. 19th, 2009 | 10:33 pm

I read a message on Facebook today that told me everything in life happens for a reason.  I'm not sure if I've ever believed that, but I do know that this is the first time I've actually felt sorry for those who do.  To believe that line a man must bind himself to a Universal Force and completely give himself up to it.  Should he try to determine the reason that things in his life happen he's sure to fail because, after all, that Universal Force works in mysterious ways.  This line of thinking perpetuates a state of mind in which a man is completely powerless over his life and thoughts.  Whatever happens did so because the Universal Force made it happen and man need not concern himself any more than that.  Those who believe this will never truly be free - they've always got a judgemental boss looking over their shoulder ready to throw shit at them on a whim.  That sort of high-stress thought process must be very taxing.  And it doesn't seem logical to me.  All of the evidence that I'm aware of points to one thing - that life is one absurd act dictated by chance and probability followed by another.  And thank God for that!  It is mentally emancipating.  "Hey, shit happens!  I'll do what I can to make sure less bad shit happens to me but fuck, beyond that there's nothing I can do - and when it's all said and done I don't have a judgemental boss to answer to.  As long as I'm happy with the results, everything is gravy!  Ahhhh, how free I feel!"  Now that is a line of thinking I can embrace!  To put it more succinctly:  There is no grand universal reason.  There are only the words we speak and the actions we take and the consequences of those words and actions.  Bad things happen to us not because the Universal Force deemed us worthy of suffering them, but because chance and our words and actions brought them to us.  That said, it is important for us to figure out how chance, words, and actions brought us to the point we're at today so that we can create a more pleasant situation for ourselves in the future.  "Everything happens for a reason" stands in the way of that clear calculation of events.  Because of that, those who believe the line open themselves up to be hit by chance and the consequences of their actions harder than those who do not.  Therefore the believers must bind themselves to that Universal Force and hope that everything that happens, happens only to make them happy.  The rest of us, on the other hand, will be free to live out our lives knowing full well that good and bad things will come to us and that we have the tools of logic and reason to mitigate the negative chance events and amplify the positive ones.

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Some Good Quotes

Aug. 8th, 2009 | 08:14 am

As I've fallen into stoicism and Aurelius,  Seneca and Zeno, I've stumbled across other Roman and Greek writers.  One of my favorites is Thucydides.  He relays interesting pieces of information and intelligent inferences into the nature of man, life, death, war, peace and happiness in the things he wrote.  Take a look at the wiki-link above -- the man's influence is still felt today and a knowledge of his work could help us understand the neoconservative movement and modern politics.  And he's got a few really awesome quotes:


"The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer as they must."

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

“It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men.”

“History is Philosophy teaching by examples.”



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Well....

Aug. 8th, 2009 | 07:55 am

.... It is what it is, isn't it?  After all, it certainly isn't what it isn't.  Or is it?

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A Trip to Vegas

Aug. 2nd, 2009 | 10:42 am

My flight from Pittsburgh to Vegas departs in under three weeks!
This will be my fourth trip in just over a year, and it will no doubt be the best.  I've got big plans - playing poker at Caesar's, followed by playing poker at the Bellagio, soaking up water in our hot-tub, exploring all the floors around our suite in the Augustus Tower, working my mantan and sipping drinks by the pool, shooting dice at the Flamingo and pressing hard every time someone makes a point, stuffing my face with sicilian pizza at New York New York, then stuffing it again with Malaysian food at Noodles, then stuffing it again at the best buffet on earth at the Rio, then celebrating the roommate's birthday in a piano bar with those sisters who play and sing so many of the songs we love, and I'll top it off by trying to land a job at the Diamond Lounge in Caesar's as a bartender.  God I love this town -and if I wind up broke, I'll always remember that I had a swingin' time! VIVA LAS VEGAS!




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The Most Underrated Band in Music History

Aug. 2nd, 2009 | 10:11 am

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The Sonics, the proto-punk band from early 1960's Tacoma Washington, are the most underrated band in music history.  Without them, where would punk have gone?  Where would music have gone?  They were garage rock at its finest - gritty, simple, hard and fast.

Here's another classic from The Sonics:



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On Watching Too Many Consecutive Episodes of Burn Notice...

Aug. 2nd, 2009 | 09:24 am

....When DVR'ing its important to remember that if you watch too many consecutive episodes of the show you begin to adopt the personality and mannerisms of the main characters.  But a good covert operative remains in his own head and focuses on the moment. One slip-up, one misstep, could compromise a mission, or worse. 

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A Brief Thought on the Future

Jul. 26th, 2009 | 07:51 pm

 I want to have children, but no wife - just women I impregnate and then occassionally see.

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