Monthly Archives: April 2006

Sets

What do the following words have in common?

beat
bumf
cackle
combativity
congery
hog-wash
shot
thing
vaticinatory

That’s right. All of their OED quotations cite Lewis’s The Apes of God. Is it as accurate of a systasis as the Amazon SIPs? Maybe not. But still.

Reflections on the Playoffs

I don’t root for professional basketball teams out of some mere locality. North Carolina, during most of the time I lived there, did not have a pro team; and, while I detested Michael Jordan and UNC when I was very young, I gradually became a Bulls fan during his career. Aesthetically, perhaps, the Bulls were not the best team during the entirety of their championship era; but they certainly kicked the hell out of New York, Utah, and Miami in terms of watchability.

The Suns are the only NBA team I can pull for as a matter of general principle now, though I certainly prefer some teams over others (except in the case of this dreadful Bulls-Heat series–how is it that a team with such an exciting player as Wade be so consistently miserable to watch?). And as such, the last two games with the Lakers have been difficult. I don’t think it’s pedantic to note that the Bryant’s now-famous dunk was clearly a charge (and kudos to Greg Anthony last night for demythologizing and depersonalizing this play a bit).

Though the Lakers have momentum, I don’t think they can sustain it. Even if they win Sunday’s game, I predict that by Tuesday the following will happen: Bryant will deviate from their quite successful distribution game plan, and this will be precipitated by Phoenix opening up a substantial lead in the first half. I think this hasn’t happened in the first three games out of luck more than anything else, and all three could have gone either way. Thus, even if the Suns lose tomorrow, I think there’s a good chance they’ll end up winning the series. If Thomas’s knee injury is serious, this may change things.

Honor Cultures

I’ve read with some interest a SEP article on experimental approaches to moral psychology by John Doris and Stephen Stich. In particular, their citation of Nisbett and Cohen’s Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South (Westview, 1996) caught my interest, particularly the description of the “asshole” saliva experiment (with a member of the team quaintly described as a “confederate”). I’m skeptical of the historical and sociological explanation of the origin of the Southern honor culture sketched out in the article, though I know that Bertram Wyatt-Brown has written extensively about it, and how do you isolate the causal factors responsible for the perceived hormonal changes? I’m reminded of the argument in Lem’s The Chain of Chance here, though probably for caliginous reasons.

My Expert First-Round NBA Playoff Predictions

I know that we’re nearly two days in.

East

1. Pistons over Bucks in four.

I haven’t watched a Bucks game all year, including today’s.

2. Pacers over Nets in six.

This one seems easy. The Pacers are a playoff team. They are always much deeper than they appear. Stojakovich is good for at least ten points and two rebounds per game. That’s every night. That kind of steady production is going to be too much for the Nets to overcome. The Nets were also slumping a bit towards the end of the season.

3. Heat over Bulls in five.

This Bulls team is essentially unwatchable. Though Wade’s a genuinely exciting player (and Jason Williams occasionally once was himself), the Heat very nearly are as well.

4. Cleveland over Washington in six.

I’d attribute this one to market forces if Washington weren’t a team so terribly suited to playoff basketball. Arenas seems to be a lock for FGA in the first round.

West

1. San Antonio over Sacramento in five.

The first game was a fluke. The next four will be closer. Sacramento’s legendary road toughness and general savoir-faire will enable them to pull out one.

2. Phoenix over Lakers in five.

People are being a bit too cute in predicting a Lakers’ upset here. Thomas, contra Barkley, will continue to shoot 80% from the field, as will the rest of the team. There’s going to be one game, in all seriousness, where the Suns run the Lakers completely out of the gym like they did a month or so ago. The reverse is impossible.

3. Clippers over Denver in six.

I’ve read that Anthony has, according to various sabrmetricals, been the most clutch performer this season. He’s much better than I thought he was, certainly, but I doubt the team’s manifest symmetry. Besides, it is clearly a year of destiny for the Clippers.

4. Dallas over Memphis in five.

Why five? Well, I’m watching right now, and Gasol, though with his team down by fifteen or more, is dunking on anyone who moves.

Meds

A not surprising article in the Post today reviews an article by Lisa Cosgrove coming out in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics that demonstrates the close ties that experts on mood disorders, including all of those who have written the relevant entries in the DSM-IV, have to the pharmaceutical industry.

I’m curious about how often we’ve seen in recent American television the effects of the diagnosed refusing their meds. There was the episode of Lost I briefly mentioned a while ago, the episode of Buffy it seemed indebted to, the fourth season of 24, and perhaps intermittent parts of The Sopranos. In almost every case, it was a liberatory gesture with attendantly dire consequences (though the reality-distortion metacommentary of the first two complicate this considerably).

I don’t remember if it’s “Out on Bail” or one of the other ones, but you may remember how it ends with something like “if I opened up your head and ran a hot soldering iron around in your brain, I might turn you into someone like that.” Mutatis mutandis.

The Previous War with Iran

From Richard Clarke and Steven Simon’s NYT editorial

While the full scope of what America did do remains classified, published reports suggest that the United States responded with a chilling threat to the Tehran government and conducted a global operation that immobilized Iran’s intelligence service. Iranian terrorism against the United States ceased.

Clarke implies here that he of course knows that there was such a chilling threat and global operation. His book also suggests that war with Iran was much closer than generally realized after the Khobar bombings. The threat I can imagine easily enough, but I’m quite curious about what the global operation was exactly. Subsequent and previous events both seem to indicate that widespread covert intelligence operations such as this have not traditionally been the strong suit of the secret agencies, and I’m not aware of any published accounts of it–again, quite unusual.

I’m Looking Forward to The Next LRB

As it promises Hacking on autism and an article on Borges. The green freedom of a cockatoo, even.

I finished teaching The Magus on Thursday. Here’s a choice quote from an interview with Fowles in Contermporary Literature:

Once you’ve done one good novel about the working class, it becomes a very difficult field to go on with because culturally–this is not being snobbish–it is limited, the situations are limited. And the thing with the middle class is that there are far more situations, middle-class people are far more complex than working-class people, and therefore, in a sense, it’s just giving yourself more room.

That was not him being snobbish, if you didn’t catch it.

Paints in Grey on Grey

Information sickness and the computational messiah. Jonathan Goodwin writes in the magazine about the utopics of automated reasoning.

“And how reliable can any truth be that is got/By observing oneself and then just inserting a Not?” (Auden, “The Way”)

It’s important to note that there is a philosopher of science Kevin T. Kelly and one of the founders of Wired Kevin Kelly, who both seem to be interested in the logic of discovery. The latter Kelly’s speculations are outré in the best Wired style. I don’t think you’ll find any mention of Hume or Bayes, who established many of the key results (problematics?) in the 18th C, in Kelly’s speculations; but the scientific literature [. . .]

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Misdirected Panspermia, Perhaps

A reference in the title there to F. Crick and L. E. Orgel’s “Directed Panspermia” (Icarus 19 [July 1973]: 341-346), mentioned in the same footnote as this “For the general idea of life on Earth having arisen from extraterrestrial activity [. . .] an idea also elaborated in the Strugatsky brothers’ [. . .] Roadside Picnic” (Steven J. Dick, The Biological Universe Cambridge, 1996. 377n104).

I’m not sure what Dick means here. I’m writing something short about Lem’s narrative theory, or presuppositions at least, in his brief essay on the book; but I thought briefly of the moulages being an advance unit that cause the rest of the world to be distorted into being, a temporal and stochastic paradox that may make sense of the Golden Ball.

Sorel on Galileo

Sorel even suggests that Galileo perhaps derived his interest in the laws of gravitational acceleration from the type of constant force presented by the monarchy, with its power swelling under his eyes every day. (Wyndham Lewis, The Art of Being Ruled, 29).

I wonder if Sorel was the first person to make that observation. Probably not. It may remind you of “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize.” It may not.

Friday Poetry Fragment

[. . .] For him, Cupid’s bow
Modified in Peenemünde
Via Brueghel.

“The Cast,” Ted Hughes. Birthday Letters. A trove of his writings sits unread a few miles from me, and will sit, if I understand the terms, for quite a while. Speaking of casts, Emory also has one of Joyce’s death-masks near the checkout counter, worth pausing to chat with the surprisingly small head before getting the latest volume on the uses of some new metal.

Without Looking

Tell me if you think this is from the current or, say, 1911 edition of the Britannica:

While instinct is an unconscious reaction more or less present in all individuals of the same species, the degree of its expression varies according to the individual and its development. Most horses can sense a rider’s uncertainty, nervousness, or fear and are thereby encouraged to disregard or even deliberately disobey the rider. Highbred animals, which give evidence of greater intelligence than those of low breeding, are capable not only of acts of vengeance and jealousy against their riders but also of expressions of confidence, obedience, affection, and fidelity. They are less willing than a lowbred horse to suffer rough handling or unjust treatment.

Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

Is the next big thing in today’s tour of the news. I’m immediately curious about how often this has been used in horror stories, and I’m ashamed, given how much time I spent reading them in adolescence, that no examples come readily to mind.

The Visible Human Project: Informatic Bodies and Posthuman Medicine by Catherine Waldby has a mention on p. 67 (Routledge, 2000). She makes a comparison with the Human Genome Project, which strikes me as fairly piquant.

Brzezinski né Baudrillard

This, at least, is amusing:

In the middle of it all are longtime residents such as Brzezinski, who at 78 remains active at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the District. He bought his five-acre estate, with its relatively modest, older house, nearly 30 years ago. He doesn’t much care for the mansions going up all around him, saying in an interview that they are “reflective of cultural pretension and pomposity” and “make the whole area look like a joke, a Disneyland imitation of the European aristocracy, without the land.”

The War with Iran

Two articles from the Washington Post and from Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. Though it feels somewhat overoptimistic at best, I’m currently subscribing to the bluster theory. I think it’s self-evident enough that there are no viable military options that the administration is working hard on a little “Madman” theory. And “explosive carrying dogs?” That’s a sure sign.

Hersh has also been tipped very hard about tactical nuclear weapons, which seems to me to fit the scenario.