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Marin Headlands, May 27, 2013


Categories: Art.

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Stay the Hand of Vengeance

Foreign Policy:

“All men [sic] by nature desire to know,” writes Aristotle in the opening of his work, Metaphysics, and when we’re faced with evil on the scale of 9/11 or the Boston bombing, what we want to know most of all is, “Who did this and why?” On the heels of these intellectual questions comes a more primal desire: revenge. We want to inflict the worst possible damage on those who would do us harm. The thinking — if you can call it that — goes something like this: “You hurt me. Now I’m going to hurt you even more.”

There are several ethical problems with this line of reasoning. As the Pioneer Hotel case illustrates, a hot-blooded response to tragedy may result in punishing someone who had nothing to do with the crime. Meting out justice requires a cold, dispassionate view of the facts, and when you’re filled with rage, it’s virtually impossible to maintain the critical distance you need to see the world as it really is.

Read on.

Categories: Politics.

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Categories: Art, Film.

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Miss Cora M. Strayer’s Private Detective Agency

Miss Cora M. Strayer's Private Detective Agency

I am really into old ads and Chicago history, and the ad copy filled me with joy. I loved the idea of a female PI working the South Side of Chicago during the Progressive Era. My mind almost immediately started concocting stories and cases for her (historical fanfic? Is that a thing?). Cheating husbands, missing daughters, crooked alderman, maybe even a murder in the Stockyards. I was sure she had an affair with Upton Sinclair and her nemesis must have been H.H. Holmes.

I resolved to find out as much about her as I could. I never would have guessed that I would find so much and that she completely lived up to my expectations. So here is a timeline and documentation of everything I could find out about her (or at least as much as I could while spending no money and “researching” from the comfort of my couch). I HIGHLY recommend you click the links and read the articles. They’re amazing.

Read on. No, really. Read the whole damn thing.

Categories: History.


“But I can tell you no more—my head is on fire at the recollection.”

The True-Life Horror that Inspired Moby-Dick:

Pollard had told the full story to fellow captains over a dinner shortly after his rescue and to a missionary named George Bennet, and to Bennet it seemed like a confession. Certainly, it was grim: 92 days and sleepless nights at sea in a leaking boat with no food, his surviving crew going mad beneath the unforgiving sun, eventual cannibalism and the harrowing fate of two teenage boys, including Pollard’s first cousin, Owen Coffin. “But I can tell you no more—my head is on fire at the recollection,” Pollard told him. “I hardly know what I say.”

Categories: History, Literature.

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Via Waxy Links

Categories: Science.

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The Turn Against Nabokov

The New Yorker:

On a snowy night in early 2013, “Lolita” went up once again, unchanged, but it had suddenly become the most scandalous show in town. The performance had been postponed since last October amid threats to Mozgovoy and others. In January, three men jumped the play’s twenty-four-year-old producer, Anton Suslov, giving him two black eyes and a concussion while calling him a “pedophile”; a murky video of the beating was posted online. The same libel was slashed in spray paint across the walls of the Nabokov museum in St. Petersburg and the writer’s ancestral estate in Rozhdestveno, about fifty miles from the city. Anonymous activists had petitioned to have the play banned, the museum closed, and Nabokov’s books purged from stores. The author, whose novels thrum with ironic recurrences, might have been perversely pleased with this: thirty-six years after his death and twenty-two years after the fall of the Soviet Union with all its khudsovets, Vladimir Nabokov is, once again, controversial.

Categories: Art, History, Literature, Politics.

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College Strawman


This is not a post about gun control. This is not a post about the Patriot Act. This is a post about how the image to the left isn’t about those things either.

Up until a year or so ago, I loved arguing about politics on the internet. That’s what the internet was for! I stopped doing it when I realized it was stressing me out, and I have more than enough stress without participating in political slap fights with anonymous strangers. I fell off the wagon immediately after Sandy Hook but I’ve been pretty good since then. Nowadays I am content to sit on the sidelines and point and laugh and cry.

But this image? It’s been bugging me in a way that’s not all proportionate to the size of its audience. Let me explain.

If you’re unfamiliar, this image is an example of the “College Liberal” image meme. From the linked Know Your Meme page:

College Liberal (also known as “Female College Liberal” and “Bad Argument Hippie”) is an advice animal image macro series featuring a photo of a young Caucasian female with dreadlocks wearing a knitted cap. The captions typically portray the character as a naive and hypocritical left-wing political activist, referencing various clichés associated with the “hippie” subculture.

In other words, it’s a way for right-leaning college-aged computer nerds to feel better about not getting invited to the good parties. That’s uncharitable, I know, but the meme itself is uncharitable. As you can tell I’m not a fan, but as with most memes it’s easily ignored. It’s especially easy if you stay away from reddit, which is something we should all be doing anyway.

However, I happened across this particular example about a week ago and it’s been with me ever since, like a shard of popcorn kernel jammed between my teeth. If I still had a reddit account, I’m sure I would have jumped into the thread for this and started (attempting) to bust heads. But I deleted my account, so here I am now. I’m writing a post on my blog for the first time in ages, and it’s because of a stupid fucking advice animal meme.

The premise of this image seems utterly wrong to me, but wrong in a way that a reader (particularly one who is predisposed to opposing gun control) could miss at first. It took me a while to figure out what precisely was bugging me about it. It seems to be a clear case of hypocrisy, and it’s pithy and symmetrical in a way that easily rolls off the tongue. But it would only make sense if “9/11″, “Patriot Act”, “Sandy Hook” and “Gun Legislation”  were meaningless variables, devoid of context. The premise seems to be that in any variation of “x was used to justify y“, where x is an event in the news and y is a piece of legislation, y is always wrong.

But this misrepresents objections to the Patriot Act. The problem with the Patriot Act was not that 9/11 was used to justify it. The problem with the Patriot Act was the Patriot Act. That 9/11 was used to justify it is obvious, historical fact, but the Act was objectionable on its own.

Imagine that, after 9/11, the Bush Administration pushed for systemic changes to the country’s intelligence apparatus in an attempt to prevent future attacks. These changes could be aimed at things like improving inter-agency communication and would preserve the people’s civil liberties. If Bush had done these things, “College Liberal” would not have objected, 9/11 as justification or no. Conversely, if Bush had attempted to use — I don’t know — rumors of a third Ghostbusters movie to justify the Patriot Act, “College Liberal” still would have objected.

I personally am in favor of more stringent gun control, but as I said this post isn’t about that. If you think that new gun legislation is as objectionable as the Patriot Act, feel free to make that case. That’s a debate I’m willing to have.* But obnoxious image memes that use stereotypes and false equivalences to make you feel better about your own positions? These issues deserve better.

Whew. I think that popcorn kernel is gone now.


*Well, not me. Like I said, I don’t do this anymore. But you get my point.

Categories: Politics.

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Categories: Art, Film.

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Tank Flintlock

My entry for the Fantastic Fest 2012 Bumper Contest.


Categories: Art, Film.

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