Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Politics of Orwell

State of the Union

It's unfortunate that the Democratic party, in the midst of a severe case of ennui, have decided to rescend any support to a cause that has long stood as a hallmark of their political acume. Social Security is in desperate need of repair yet not only have the Democratic members of Congress deigned such action unnecessary, they are willing to fight anyone who might attempt to do so. Instead of presenting their party and politics in this negative light the Democrats should turn the situation to their advantage. Support a plan to reshape Social Security and not only will the Democrats display their party's willingness to engage in bipartisan politics but also present to the nation a strong Democratic leader and platform. The Democrats need to take this issue to the public well before a Republican plan can reach the papers, tvs and blogs of the U.S. President Bush won this past election fairly and a conservative party will win again unless liberal alternatives are provided. By acting like such spoiled brats the librals of this country will not long remain in any kind of power and ergo, will not be able to affect any real change. Yes, conservativism fears the future by nature. But that doesn't mean liberals have to be scared as well.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Atlas Shrugged

Considering the Last Romantic

I loved Ayn Rand when I first read "Atlas Shrugged" but within six months I had already torn her premise of elite society apart. Her justifications for selfishness aside, Rand was writing nothing more but another rendition of the Nietzschean Übermensch. Elitism is a necessary element to society. Without an elite we wouldn't see the technological, artistic and simply human advancements that we have today. But where I differ with Rand is on the purpose and role the elite play. The elite should be like Nietzsche's Übermensch. The elite should be the masters of civilization and live beyond the good and evil of modern society. But being a master and living beyond traditional morality isn't so simple. Being a master means being a caretaker. You might hold dominion over lands and people but those same lands and people rule you. In a way, being a master is like the role government should play in the world. The government has only obligations to its citizens and the only rights a government has are ones necessary to fulfill those obligations. The only good and the only evil at this point are the good of life and the evil of death. Rand never mentioned anything about preserving life or the obligations of the master. Despite her love of the Romantics she failed to embody the artistic spirit that Nietzsche infused his Übermensch with. Creation was, and is, the ultimate good, if any good can be spoken of. Yet Rand was willing to lay waste to the world, much as the more bastardized versions of the Übermensch was meant to do.


Turkey and the EU

Once you move further east than the Aegean Sea it becomes difficult to determine where Europe stops and Asia starts. Cultures, civilizations, religions, and styles of government undergo a transformation until you reach a definitive example of a European or Asian or Middle Eastern state. I won't say nation since the word and even the idea of a 'nation' is artificial to some degree. Turkey does stand at odds with the rest of Europe mainly in its history but in part in its religion. The question of whether to grant Turkey entrance into the EU opens a Pandora's box of other questions: what constitutes Europe; whether former Soviet republics east of the Black Sea warrant entrance. Moreover, when do geographic concerns become moot in the face of cultural and governmental differences?


Neil Stephenson interview
Article 10: Critical Distance

While I have never read anything by Neil Stephenson he has come highly recommended for someone with an interest in 16th century English history. Most of his interview on Slashdot did not interest me except for his long response concerning literary criticism and the relationship between art and economics. Paul O'Brian presents a similar argument on critical acclaim and market forces in comics. Both Stephenson and O'Brian write for rather insular audiences. Still, both make strong points on the difference between literary, or high art, and the direct mainstream markets. What I find interesting is the idea that poor performance in the mainstream is constantly taken as a sign of the quality of the work. The academic-based critics hail the underachievers for being underachievers. Maybe my natural disdain for anything that comes with massive fanfare, no matter who the fan, prevents me from seeing the logic in this.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Warding off a Naked Churchill

9/11 Essay

It does depend on which end of the gun you are looking. The victim becomes the victimizer becomes the victim. I think it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said once that the essetial question now is between non-violence and non-existence. And it was Albert Camus, in the midst of the German occupation of France, who said that murder is never legitimate but sometimes necessary. Terrorists lack legitimate grounds for their actions but how different are their motives from that of the U.S.? The end of tyranny? Who's tyranny? Sacrifice for your people? Who's people? History may no longer be solely written by the victors but the victors are still the ones who are listened to.

Crisis in the Basement

The Basement Tapes

The long shadows of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" and Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" continue to affect comics in strange ways. It seems more often than not these days that the better writers out there are the ones who balance both the grim and gritty aspects with the bright and flashy ones. James Robinson and Geoff Johns have both renewed my passion for the bright colors and bright attitudes of 1930s and 1940s characters while Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis continue to put those bright characters into dark and ambiguous situations. 'Realism' in comics is only good insofar as it shows both the good and the bad. The transition from Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" to Joss Weadon's "Astonishing X-Men" is probably the best current example of this balance. Morrison dirtied the cleanest characters by making them alive. Weadon, in turn, shows why those characters were clean in the first place.

The Car-Jacking of a Theory

Evolution Takes a Back Seat

What amazes me more than the teaching of creationism in schools is the complete and consistant lack of evidence backing creationism. As far as I know, belief alone does not prove anything. I think it was in the years leading up to World War II that several German scientists attempted to present a coherent argument proving how the race of Isaac was something less than human. Psuedo-science is still psuedo and a theory only says as much as it proves.

Monday, January 31, 2005

encapsulation of compression

Supercompression is a term coming into greater notoriety on the comic message boards these days. Charges of laziness and indolence have been leveled against those 'decompression' writers as what was once a story told within three to six issues is now stretch to twelve or more. Supercompression is an attempt to bring the story arc back to a more accessible form. Supercompression is also, in many ways, what I am attempting here. The problem is thus: how does one compress a critique, rant, exposition or other brief essay into a paragraph without losing all meaning? The least complex answer possible is usually the correct one. Bastardized Ockam quotes aside, presenting nuanced simplicity is my goal. Or is that simplistic nuance?



It's a comic about a cat, a rabbit and a dog and it nearly made me cry twice.

Collapsable History

'Collapse': How the World Ends

There's something about combining biological determinism and history that bothers me. This cat, Jared Diamond, claims that enviromental factors can explain the whys and hows of world history. The historians of the Annales school went down this route in the 1960s and even then geographic and enviromental effects were only included as another element in historical interpretation. To reduce the history of humanity to one cause ignores both humanity and history. Diamond's argument strikes me as a touch too teleological. It's one thing to claim that certain environmental conditions allowed for humans to exist and florish. It's quite another to claim that those conditions entirely determined how humanity would progress. There's a reason why the word 'inevitable' is anathema to historians.