Wednesday, May 27, 2009

God Talk (part 2)

God Talk, Part 2 - Stanley Fish builds on his previous post and responds to commenters.

"By the same analysis, simple reporting is never simple and common observation is an achievement of history and tradition, not the result of just having eyes. And while there surely are facts, there are no facts (at least not ones we as human beings have access to) that simply declare themselves to the chainless minds Hitchens promises us if we will only cast aside the blinders of religion.

Indeed, there are no chainless minds, and it’s a good thing, too. A chainless mind would be a mind not hostage to or fettered by any pre-conceptions, a mind that was free to go its own way. But how could you go any way if you are not anywhere, if you are not planted in some restricted location in relation to which the directions “here,” “there” and “elsewhere” have a sense?"

(click for large - taken at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Charlie Brooker on the car crash that is Gordon Brown's premiereship

Guardian Article here...

This is different. This is national. We're all witnesses to The Incident. And I don't know about you, but I'm finding the tension unbearable. I can't wait for the general election - not because I want to see Prime Minister Wormface Cameron smugging his way into Downing Street, because I don't - but just because I don't think I can bear this mishap-strewn landscape a moment longer. It's like being trapped in a hot room filled with an overpowering fart smell, waiting for someone outside to come along and open the window.

I like Charlie Brooker because he worked with my boy Chris Morris on Brass Eye. i also have a fascination wif British politics, being able to ogle it as closely as i like but have no responsibility for the outcome or having to participate. Gordon Brown, he's somethin' - i do feel like he's working, but, not really sure 100% of the time what he's doing or why he's doing what he's doing. ...Still, would be my pleasure to meet you, Gordon B...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Ny Times Magazine article
Leno and Letterman have been rivals since NBC chose Leno to be Johnny Carson’s successor and Letterman moved to CBS. Letterman was Carson’s pick — when Carson retired, he appeared twice on Dave’s show and never on Jay’s — and he’s revered in the tight-knit community of comedy writers, many of whom, like O’Brien, grew up watching him. Letterman’s cool irony (especially when compared with Leno’s genial demeanor) can make him seem unkind, but it can also create thrilling comedy out of unexpected situtations. On Feb. 11, Letterman’s interview with a heavily bearded, quasi-comatose Joaquin Phoenix not only offered up Letterman at his best but demonstrated why talk shows endure even as the TV audience becomes increasingly fragmented. By allowing Phoenix, who was unable to speak for stretches at a time, to dictate the pace of the interview, Letterman created strange, uncomfortable and riveting live television. “When Dave is good,” [Conan] O’Brien told me the day after the Phoenix episode, “no one is better. At moments like that, I can’t touch him.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

Plants vs Zombies

I was gonna quote a review, to recommend this game, then it weirded me out that I was basically quoting a phrase instead of having to recommend it, but, recommending this person's words (who are recommending the game) ? Messed up. So, I recommend this game.

Plants vs. Zombies (offical site) (Steam site)

Here's a link to several positive reviews and a few (medium) positive reviews

God Talk: Modern Creeds Can't "Replace" Religion

Good write-up on belief in the modern era -

God Talk, Stanley Fish on Terry Eagleton's new book, "Reason, Faith, and Revolution."

"...the basis for what Eagleton calls “the rejection of religion on the cheap” by contrasting its unsupported (except by faith) assertions with the scientifically grounded assertions of atheism collapses; and we are where we always were, confronted with a choice between a flawed but aspiring religious faith or a spectacularly hubristic faith in the power of unaided reason and a progress that has no content but, like the capitalism it reflects and extends, just makes its valueless way into every nook and cranny."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Situation's Changed: In The Car Media Video

Upped on Funny or Die Here...
Our submission for the 48 Hour Film Project. All writing, shooting and editing had to take place within 48 hours. The criteria was:

Character: Mary Quinzani, 2nd in command
Prop: a magnet
Line: "Yes. I mean, I hope so."
Genre: Detective/Cop
Cast: Dan Stevens, Brett Johnson, Audrey Claire Johnson, Tim Lewis
Crew: Ed Rand, Jessica Sullivan, Phil Nichols, Pink Brian
Director: David Ells; Written by Brett Johnson, Phil Nichols, and the above collaborators


This project was awesome to work on and am very pleased with how good it came out. I had written a comedy sketch called "The Interrogation" a couple of months before, and when we were given the genre of Detective/Cop we came to realize parts of that could be incorporated. Dave (Ells) was the real sculptor of this - we turn in good performances and he applies his surgeon/editors knife and out comes a beautiful High Definition baby. (As cinematograper/filmer as well, he played the role of the mother and surgeon, carrying the video camera in his womb for nine months).

Friday, May 8, 2009

things heard said in real life that sound like a joke punchline

“Yeah, I got a friend who works at Wrigley’s.”

thats all i got

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beyond the Horizon of Capitalism

Perry Anderson on the French Left (after the fall of Communism):

"Historically, the left had tried to separate capitalism and democracy, but they formed a single history. Democracy had triumphed since 1989, and with it capital. But its victory was now tinged with malaise, for it was accompanied by an ever greater disengagement of its citizens from public life. It was impossible to view that withdrawal without a certain melancholy. Once Communism had fallen, the absence of an alternative ideal of society was draining politics of passion, without leading to any greater belief in the justice of the status quo. Capitalism was now the sole horizon of humanity, but the more it prevailed, the more detested it became. ‘This condition is too austere and contrary to the spirit of modern societies to last,’ Furet concluded. He ended in the spirit of Tocqueville, lucidly resigned to the probability of what he had resisted. ‘It might one day be necessary,’ he conceded, ‘to go beyond the horizon of capitalism, to go beyond the universe of the rich and poor.’ For however difficult it was even to conceive of a society other than ours today, ‘democracy, by virtue of its existence, creates the need for a world beyond the bourgeoisie and beyond capital.’ "

This separating of democracy and capitalism has some resonance. Capitalism being the 'least worst' option in the economic sphere does not equal singing the praises of every aspect of it. The market's self-regulation, openness, and opportunity are to be valued, but the difficult-to-conceive idea of an economic system retaining effectiveness while sating democracy's "need for a world beyond the bourgeoisie and beyond capital" seems a worthwhile concept to buff ones mental blades with.

As with most things (excepting Tostitos Hint-of-Lime and high speed photography) there is worth in noting what is praiseworthy and worth in the acknowledgment and exploration its weaknesses.

(Click for Large)


(except from interview in Scientific American, with Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant)

LEHRER: You advocate a theory of creativity defined by a cognitive property you call "hyper-connectivity." Could you explain?

TAMMET: I am unusually creative—from visualizing numerical landscapes composed of random strings of digits to the invention of my own words and concepts in numerous languages. Where does this creativity come from?

My brain has developed a little differently from most other people’s. Aside from my high-functioning autism, I also suffered from epileptic seizures as a young child. In my book, I propose a link between my brain’s functioning and my creative abilities based on the property of ‘hyper-connectivity’.

In most people, the brain’s major functions are performed separately and not allowed to interfere with one another. Scientists have found that in some brain disorders however, including autism and epilepsy, cross-communication can occur between normally distinct brain regions. My theory is that rare forms of creative imagination are the result of an extraordinary convergence of normally disconnected thoughts, memories, feelings and ideas. Indeed, such “hyper-connectivity” within the brain may well lie at the heart of all forms of exceptional creativity.

Compelling idea - and points to, I believe, the concept that being able to synthesize ideas is more important than being the holder of certain data/knowledge. It could be argued that it's always been that way, but I believe the 'modern age,' UNDT DAS INTERNET, has decreased the value of knowledge (in the form of statistics and details, with so much it becoming easily accessible). If one considers knowledge as coming most importantly in this form, then it is easier to feel that "most everything's been figured out." A perspective change to looking at where knowledge/ideas (disparate or not) can be synthesized to either further clarify the original idea or form a new idea opens the drapes wide open on the vastness of things yet to be conceived, tried, tested, synthesized.

addendum: Synthesis does require understanding - which does require the use of data/statistics to be examined, understood, and passed through to see what they are representing.

Reculer pour Mieux Sauter

Reculer pour Mieux Sauter:

To run back in order to give a better jump forwards; to give way a little in order to take up a stronger position.

“Where the empire sets its foot, it cannot withdraw without much loss of credit, whereas reculer pour mieux sauter must often be the most effective action in that tide of European civilisation, which is slowly, but surely, advancing into the heart of the Dark Continent.” —Nineteenth Century, December, 1892, p. 990.

(Sky over Flagstaff, TX - click for LARGE)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

keep reaching, buddy

(good picture, I think from Somewhere on this site)

Patterns and Expectations in Conversation, Comedy

On Umberto Eco :
(I don't have a link for where i got this, may this cup passeth)

"In Opera Aperta, Eco argued that literary texts are fields of meaning, rather than strings of meaning, that they are understood as open, internally dynamic and psychologically engaged fields. Those works of literature that limit potential understanding to a single, unequivocal line are the least rewarding, while those that are most open, most active between mind and society and line, are the most lively and best — although valuation terminology is not his business. Eco emphasizes the fact that words do not have meanings that are simply lexical, but rather operate in the context of utterance. So much had been said by I. A. Richards and others, but Eco draws out the implications for literature from this idea. He also extended the axis of meaning from the continually deferred meanings of words in an utterance to a play between expectation and fulfillment of meaning. Eco comes to these positions through study of language and from semiotics, rather than from psychology or historical analysis..."

The portion on the "play between expectation and fulfillment of meaning" is very resonant as it pertains to humor, and playful conversation. We're constantly searching for patterns we can recognize in daily life, with jokes using this same instinct: setting up a joke is about setting up a recognizable pattern, then subverting the expectation - fulfilling the meaning, but not in the way that is expected ('to get to the other side;' or, the one hunter shooting the other -for a second time- to "make sure he's dead," per the 911 operator's instructions).

This also extends to playful conversing - what is said sets up a expectation/pattern, and this can either be responded to & fulfilled as expected, or fulfilled but not as expected.

What makes the playful ('fulfilled but not as expected') response "work" more than it may otherwise? If the response is in the context of some sort of understood reality/pattern between those conversing instead of just "fulfilling but not as expected" in some unrelatable way. 

For example, a "Where's the paperwork?"//"On Mars"(or)"Your mom has it!" exchange has... just an unconnected, spouted thing, a random noun that may or may not be interesting on its own. Versus, if those conversing had spoken earlier about the office's new Eco-Green Initiative, a "Where's the paperwork?"//" printed myself out a BUNCH more copies, just in case" exchange resonates stronger since it references/relies on the already established pattern and understanding between both people.

Relying on this already established pattern actually takes away some of the "if i'm being conversational i have to be funny/interesting" baggage. The first example places the need for something clever on whatever's said - traditionally leading someone to say something crazy ("Mars! The Red Planet!") or culturally-timely ("Octo-Mom!"), or (most difficult) something wry/clever on its own (Not wry/clever example: "Paperwork? yeah it finished itself and left work early."**), so the understanding that you are not being serious in what you are saying is clear (and to fulfill the is-this-interesting pressure).

When the response can simply live in an established rapport/pattern, that gives it legs on its own. How its said, or how clever it is, of course affect how it's taken, but -at the end of the day- all that's needed is right there, already been shared - a pattern ready to be used and built on.

This happens to be the same method for effective improvising. Making decisions and establishing things, then using the patterns that have been created and building on those. Why set oneself up and expect to be clever or funny at any given moment? Building on the patterns that are there not only can be done almost instinctually (especially once you figure out how to get out of the way of yourself), it has the added bonus of being hugely more interesting than watching someone try to figure out how to get a kind of reaction (laughs).

A lot of parentheses used so far, they're just helpful for squeezing stuff in, ok?

**sexual? likely

Decisionless Moments

I was involved in 2 decisionless moments today (both with groups) got me thinkin. The first was in a lunch that was being thrown, at work, for a coworker who was getting married this weekend. There were several minutes of sitting in a group, looking at the heaping pile of food on the table. People were hungry, people were able to (socially acceptably) eat, but most noticeably was that everyone was aware of the potential action that could happen at any moment, we were all waiting for something to give and we can start eating. Eventually someone said something about digging in and then the eating started (rapidly).

Other time was driving back to work at the end of lunch- at a busy 4-way stop - myself (i'm a car) and two other cars pulled into the intersection, each of us stopping evenly at the same the distance from each other --- forming a near-perfect square of space from each other (a square? with three cars, brett?). After the briefest of moments i continued straight through the square and out the intersection.

All anybody wanted in either of these situations was somebody to make decision. None of the drivers (the other two cars had drivers, i'm a car, remember) had particularly strong feelings about what the decision was, just for that moment, that pause, we (they, --still a car here) wanted SOMEBODY to make a decision so that we could continue the pattern/learned activity that we had been doing/ knew how to do - driving, in this case [<-said british="" detective="" font="" in="" voice="">

At the lunch, nobody cared enough to decide to say something about digging in (until someone did).

Starting from square 1: When it comes to not-everyday/less intuitive decisions, its only when we care about something enough that we commit ourselves to making a deliberate decision about it; only when our I-give-an-shit level crosses a certain threshold, let's say.

Both of these aimless, decisionless situations i was in today made me wonder how much time we spend waiting for a decision to be made, rather than waiting to make a decision ourselves. i think it's easier to conceive of ourselves individually, with high awareness (of "why" we made that choice) when it comes to the decisions that we make and the things we do day in day out. The situations I was in gave a sort of look-behind-the-curtain at groups of individuals (including myself) who were content to - preferred to? -be buffeted around by the decisions of others or the group. It was when a decision of significance was having to be made that tensions raised/awarenesses increased - once someone (anyone!) made A decision, we knew what to do then: OK, now can drive || OK, now can eat.
If i had to throw a hula-hoop in the dark i'd say there's something to this as far as our actual tendencies when interacting with each other, compared to the idea of the rational, unaffected, individual decision-maker.


as i've written this post i've doubted more the whole concept, the whole idea, but i had started the writing of it so had to finish it. also felt better about it towards the end

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Not this, Lionel Trilling...from here
...An even more provocative version of this theme, "Freud: Within and Beyond Culture," was delivered as a lecture in Trilling posed the issue as biology versus culture: biology representing the "given," the immutability of man's nature; culture, the forces of society ("civilization," as Freud put it) that strove to alter and overcome biology[...]Unlike most of his listeners, who regarded any idea of a "given" as "reactionary," Trilling insisted that the givenness of our biological condition was, in fact, "liberating"--liberating man from a culture that would otherwise be absolute and omnipotent. "Somewhere in the child, somewhere in the adult, there is a hard, irreducible, stubborn core of biological urgency, and biological necessity, and biological reason that culture cannot reach and that reserves the right, which sooner or later it will exercise, to judge the culture and resist and revise it."
Nice. Trilling again (from article):
"Some paradox of our natures leads us, when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion. It is to prevent this corruption, the most ironic and tragic that man knows, that we stand in need of the moral realism which is the product of the free play of the moral imagination."


Truffles Lead to Food Abuse - "Once people felt their goals were met, they tended to reverse their behaviors."