June 25, 2009

I Needed This

I had a bad day yesterday and things are shaping up to being pretty shitty for a while, so this song is really just what I needed this morning.

I loved the first Aqua album, but didn't even try the second one.  If this song is representative of what's on their next album, I will have to run out and get it immediately.  Don't get in my way because I will push you down.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 08:21 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Category: State of the Arts
Post contains 77 words, total size 1 kb.

June 24, 2009

The Freedom to Oppress Yourself

French President Nicholas Sarkozy recently asserted, "The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women's dignity."

Once again the concept of freedom escapes an elected politician.  I'll pause now while you express your surprise.


Presumably, women in France are not currently forced by the state to wear burqas.  I've seen pictures of them not wearing tops, so I don't think I'm wrong here.  This means that women, even Muslim women, in France are allowed to not wear a burqa.  But now Sarkozy wants to take away the option of wearing a burqa and he's arguing that by reducing the freedom of French women, he's somehow increasing their freedom.

Now, I've seen a few women here in New York wearing burqas and I find them terrifying.  I would have the same reaction to a man walking around in a ski mask as well.

But there isn't and should not be any law against this.  The people of France will lose a modicum of their freedom if Sarkozy is successful in his effort to ban the burqa.

Found via Joe.My.God.  Be sure to check out the comments on his post for a different perspective on this issue.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 06:30 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Category: In the News
Post contains 211 words, total size 1 kb.

June 23, 2009

Reclaiming Faggot

I was forced by the state to take a course in "multiculturalism" in order to receive my undergraduate degree and I opted for a course in women's studies on the recommendation of a friend at the time. I learned in that class that various minorities have "reclaimed" some of the hurtful words that have been directed at them and by using them willingly toward one another they become less hurtful when used by others.

While this notion has been far less successful with the term "nigger," which everyone in America knows is still considered extremely offensive when used by white people, other terms like "gal," "queer," and "bitch" have been more or less "reclaimed."

I find the whole notion of "reclaiming" terms to be a little bit specious. Yes, the meaning and especially the connotations of words shift over time, but actively using an offensive word in an effort to dis-empower unfair prejudices while some how promoting acceptance strikes me as absurd. Therefore, as a general rule, I take offensive language to be offensive.

The reason I chose to name the category of posts on this blog regarding the topic of homosexuality "On Faggotism" is because the term "faggot" is offensive and I appreciate the absurd reversal of application since nearly everything I write on the topic is pro-sodomy. But absurdity one aspect of effective humor and here the joke hinges on the fact that the term is offensive.

I dislike the term "faggot." It makes my skin crawl. I could count the number of times I've actually uttered the term on one hand. It offends me. I don't even like the term "fag," although it's marginally less obnoxious to me.

And I find it notable that I have heard it from the lips of homosexuals at least as frequently as I've heard it uttered by heterosexuals and they have generally used it to express at least as much disdain for a fellow gay as a homophobe would. Therefore, I think it is arguable to say that the homosexual who uses the term is expressing that disdain not merely for the individual toward whom the aspersion is cast but for the homosexual population at large. At the risk of sounding a little too "multicultural" I would be inclined to call that phenomenon "internalized homophobia."

This brings me to Mario Lavendeira AKA Perez Hilton. Mr. Lavendeira was recently involved in a violent altercation with bodyguards and members of the band Black Eyed Peas. During this altercation, Mr. Lavendeira apparently provoked someone to violence by calling William Adams AKA Will.I.Am a faggot.

Before I continue, I should point out that I have no respect for Mr. Lavendeira. Prior to final editing, this post included several colorful references to Mr. Lavendeira and his character both of which I consider to be vulgar and low in nearly every conceivable aspect. I used terms like "asshat," "twit," fuckwit," and a metaphor involving both the word "pustule" and "syphilitic testical" along with a reference to a farm animal that I find to be amusing. As you can see, however, I have taken the higher road here because this post isn't about my evaulation of Mr. Lavendeira's person or character.

The Gay, Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has spoken out on this issue, asking Mr. Lavendeira to apologize for his use of the word. And Mr. Lavendeira has responded by whining some more, "I am saddened GLAAD chose to victimize me further by criticizing me for how I non-violently dealt with a very scary situation that, unfortunately, turned violent." And then he goes on to suggest that GLAAD ought to apologize to him.

I don't think arguments should be settled with violence, but I can see how lesser men might decide that a smart alec deserves a punch in the nose for mouthing off as I believe Mr. Lavendeira did. So, the question of whether or not it was right or wrong for someone to allegedly hit Mr. Lavendeira. That was certainly a rightfully criminal act.

But having been wronged does not mitigate or diminish the fact that Mr. Lavendeira was also wrong even if not criminally so. (It might be argued that some of his editing of celebrity photos to imply that they are drug addicts is libelous, but that does not immediately seem to apply here.) And his use of the term "faggot" is also not made less offensive for it, either.

Mr. Lavendeira admits that he chose to call Mr. Adams a faggot because it was the worst possible thing he could think of.  He knows the term is offensive.  As a gay man, he also knows the term applies to him and not Mr. Adams who is heterosexual.  He is implicitly accepting the idea that, if nothing else, Mr. Adams thinks that being gay is a VERY bad thing.  The worst thing he could think of for Mr. Adams to be, actually.

He attempts to dodge the accusation of using an offensive anti-gay epithet by suggesting that he was merely being manipulative, but fails because his manipulation requires acknowledging and applying the hatefulness he wishes to exploit. So, aside from being hurtful and slanderous, Mr. Lavendeira tacitly accepts the accusation of homosexuality as an insult.

I'm glad that GLAAD called Mr. Lavendeira out on this crap, although I can't say I'm really all that surprised that he used the word.  If there is any gay man who would spitefully call another man a faggot in an attempt to insult and provoke, it's him.  That's exactly what kind of person he is and why I don't like him.

Update: Lavendiera apologizes and claims not to be homophobic.  I remain unconvinced.  I think he still subconsciously regards gay sex as shameful and immoral.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 11:08 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Category: On Faggotism
Post contains 960 words, total size 6 kb.

June 21, 2009

Restaurant Review: Uncle Jack's Steakhouse

Kevin from Wisecracks and Wisdom visited me this weekend and we went to dinner this evening at Uncle Jack's.

Uncle Jack's is a steak place very much like Keene's, which I like quite a bit, although I find the atmosphere to be a bit stuffy there at Keene's.  Uncle Jack's is pretty posh.  I wore a t-shirt and jeans and Kevin wore a polo shirt and jeans.  We both felt underdressed, but since it was an early dinner, we got over it.  I would recommend at least a button-down if not a jacket at a minimum for this place.  A tie would probably be ideal.

The service was phenomenal and I noted something a little remarkable even for NYC from our waiter.  If you have an ounce of social perspicacity, you know I'm gay.  And you see me with another male and you will conclude that there's a date or something going on.  Our waiter appeared to be rather typically straight.  When he approached out table he was open and congenial.  But he gave no sign at all that he thought we were a gay couple, but realizing the possibility, he very evenly asked, "Are we celebrating a special occasion?"  This may not seem like a big deal, but it's a very even question that applies to all possible scenarios.  We might be two straight guys just out for a steak.  We might be friends celebrating a birthday.  We might be on a date.  We might be celebrating an anniversary.  Or any number of gay or straight possibilities.  I really appreciated not only his discretion, but the directness, friendliness, and openness with which he delivered the inquiry.

In addition to this, he was very helpful and friendly.  I will say it was rather American-style service. 

European wait staff tend to leave you alone.  You often have to ask for more water or drinks.  You have to ask for the check.

American service is a lot more hands-on.  They check in frequently.  They volunteer the check -- a gesture which Europeans apparently regard as rude and as an indication that they are being asked to leave the table.

I like a slightly higher amount of attention, but prefer to ask for the check.  Even as our waiter volunteered the check, he made it clear that we were welcome to stay and sit longer.  He was very good about it in my opinion.

Now the food.

We started with the Maryland crab cakes.  They seemed to be solid crab meat with some cheese and herbs.  Very, very good.

We skipped the salad and went straight to the steaks.  We both had the Kobe filet mignon.  It was absolutely, hands down the BEST steak I have ever had in my life.  We both ordered the steaks "rare-plus" which is where the middle is pink, but warm, as opposed to pink and cool.  The texture was softer and smoother that any beef I've ever had.  They seared the steak in something sweet and there was a very flavorful crust on the outside.  The inside was moist and tasty.  Words fail when I try to describe this.

For sides, we asked for sauteed onions and some garlic mashed potatoes.  Both were good, but I only had a bit eof each because the steaks were so large.  The steaks were supposed to be 15oz.  They seemed to be the size of footballs.  SO GOOD.

We also got some kind of chocolate cake thing for dessert.  The name escapes me.  I had a few bites and it was also quite tasty.

But I have to say that since I've had this steak, all other food pales in comparison.  It was insanely good.

The prices were actually moderate for the kind of food we were eating.  Our filets were only $75 each.  Other so-called Kobe and Wagyu steaks in the city run about $100.  This was nearly 1lb of steak for just $75.  Bargain.

So, I strongly recommend Uncle Jack's.  They have three locations in the city for your convenience, so make a point to try it out.  Food is great.  Service is very strong.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 07:24 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Category: Food and Drink
Post contains 692 words, total size 4 kb.

Mr. Spock and Equilibrium

I'm watching a movie right now called Equilibrium, starring Mr. Christian Bale and also featuring Mr. Taye Diggs.

The movie is about a fascist society which arises after some catestrophic world wars in which people have decided that the source of strife and suffering is human emotion.  As a result, they suppress emotions -- often through the use of chemicals -- and prosecute anyone who is guilty of "sense crimes," which amount to inspiring an emotional response, usually through the collection of art.

I'm not done watching it, so I can't really say if it's an overall good or bad movie, although from the start it bears some similarities to other dystopian movies.

But it made me wonder: is it even possible for people to operate without emotions?  I think not.

Your subconscious mind is a vast collection of all the integrations you've made.  It's the sum of your ideas and judgments.  It has to be subconscious because your conscious mind is busy handling the specifics of your life, like driving to work, doing math, sorting the laundry, etc. But your conscious mind can only hold so many things at once, so your subconscious mind feeds it your basic evaluations of things so that you can direct your actions according to those evaluations.  This direction is given in the form of emotions.

Although you may not feel ecstatic joy about washing dishes, you feel a pleasant satisfaction at having completed the task (assuming you're a sensible adult who is running their life like a civilized human being) and revulsion at the idea of having a kitchen strewn with fetid scraps of food and dingy flatware.

"Positive" feelings like joy, happiness, love, satisfaction are signs from your subconscious that you are achieving or maintaining your values, things that matter to you.  "Negative" feelings like outrage, anger, anxiety, fear are signs that you're losing something that matters to you or that it's in danger.

Without emotions, you would lack the basic building blocks of motivation for doing anything at all.  You would not feel revulsion at the idea of spending your life in bed or joy at having accomplished your goals. 

What goals could you possibly have?  You might randomly choose some goal or another, but it wouldn't mean anything to you to not pursue it or to achieve it.  But I'm not certain that even if a goal were set before you that you'd be able to effectively pursue it, even as a sort of automaton. People's brains just don't work that way.

In order to get ready for work without emotions, you'd have to constantly check back in with your basic premises, all the way up through your most distant abstractions in order to logically justify having a career and being presentable for your work every day.  Even if we suppose that you're magically able to retain some memory of that long chain of reasoning, you couldn't possibly keep all of it in the forefront of your brain in order to achieve any goal more distant than perhaps checking the mail, but it would depend on how far the mailbox is away from your sofa.

Emotions just seem to me to be essential to even basic, everyday operations as a human being.  So, I think these movies and characters, like Mr. Spock, which operate under the premise that emotions can be avoided, suppressed, or stopped are somewhat absurd, much like stories about ghosts or zombies.

Update: The movie is approaching the end and now I have another idea: even if you managed to somehow operate your life without emotions, that doesn't really prescribe the content of your brain.  You could still behave irrationally.  You could still act like a maniac -- just not passionately.  You could choose to either be an agent of the fascist overlords who are telling everyone to suppress their emotions, or you could be an agent of the overlord's destruction.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 03:18 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Category: Importance of Ideas
Post contains 658 words, total size 4 kb.

June 16, 2009

Science Experiment Fail

Yesterday, I took my laundry out for a wash, but it won't be ready for pick up until today, so I had a legitimate reason to sleep on my sofa last night.

So, I decided to try to sleep on the chaise portion of my sofa, which is oriented north-south like my bed.  Unfortunately, it's not nearly long enough, so I could not stretch out and I ended up spending another fairly sleepless night until I shifted over to the east-west side of the sofa.

So, I still don't really know if the whole north-south/east-west thing is a factor.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 06:25 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Category: About Flibby
Post contains 102 words, total size 1 kb.

June 15, 2009

Why Can't I Sleep?

I really haven't had a good night's sleep in my new apartment -- unless I sleep on my couch.

I don't know what's wrong.  I can usually sleep soundly pretty much anywhere, but for nearly a month now my own bed has felt like some alien place that isn't right for sleeping.  It's the same mattress I've slept on for nearly 8 years now.

There aren't too many things that I can think of that might affect my sleep.  It is darker and quieter in my room than it's even been in the past three years, but that should make it EASIER to sleep, not harder.  Also, I sleep just fine on my sofa.

There are two differences between my sofa and my bed that I can think of, but neither of them seem to me to be things that would affect my sleep.

First, my bed is way up off of the ground.  I put it on risers so I could store things under there.  I used to sleep in a loft in college and had no problems with that, but it's been many years since then and perhaps I'm just not used to it.

Second, and I know this sounds like crazy talk, my bed isn't oriented the way I'm used to it being oriented.  For the past six or seven years, my bed has always been oriented east-west.  It wasn't by design, it's just how things worked out.  And now my bed is oriented north-south.  As far as I know, this should have no affect on my sleeping, but maybe?

I don't know, but I cannot sleep on my sofa all the time.  It's just not civilized.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 03:17 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Category: About Flibby
Post contains 284 words, total size 2 kb.

June 09, 2009

Star Trek: A Counter Point

I made it to my first Objectivist meeting after my move, but unfortunately I was just about the only one.  One other person made it, but as the third person departed, I got into a discussion about the latest Star Trek movie with our host.

His main complaints where the bufoonery -- particularly on the part of Kirk -- and the simple preposterousness of the story.

I can't help but agree.  Kirk seemed like he was drunk through most of the movie and there was a QUITE a bit of slapstick throughout.

There were a few element that, even though I was in the midst of loving it, I though, "Whaaaat?"

So, this begs the question: What did I like about it?

I think Diana Hsieh will dislike it. 

I liked the simplistic, concreteness of the action and story. I liked the cutsieness and general action orientation of the whole thing. Questions about why you have to drill a big hole while trying to destroy a planet with a black hole or the odds of TWO big monsters being on the same planet with Spock from the future simply do not bother me.

I liked the movie.

But I can't contest his complaints here.  Kirk IS a bufoon. Spock is WAY cooler.  Scotty is typically silly  These things bothered him, but I didn't mind.

We agreed that Spock was the strongest character in the cast.  I also liked Bones.

So anyway... I just wanted to give you a peek into the dissenting review.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 10:59 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Category: State of the Arts
Post contains 258 words, total size 1 kb.

June 02, 2009

Do You Have Beliefs That Others Consider Strange or False?

I'm participating in a set of medical studies as a healthy control.  This means that I'm the healthy person that they compare their other subjects to.  They have to take my blood and give me MRI and PET scans and things like that because the studies are part of the Functional Brain Imaging something something.  It's kind of neat.

Anyway, this week, I went to the clinic for more tests and part of it was a mental health survey or something and this lady had to ask me a bunch of questions.

The questions were obviously screening for various mental problems like schizophrenia and paranoid delusions. 

"Do you hear people saying your name when no one is around?"
"Do you receive secret messages telling you how things will be arranged in your life?"

Actually, I don't know if I was asked that second question because the lady was not a native English speaker and her accent was very thick.  Her proficiency in English actually led to a problem later in the survey.

She asked me, "Do you have any beliefs that others regard as strange or false?"

I laughed because as an Objectivist, I am perfectly aware of the fact that much of what I believe is regarded as extreme, strange, false, and even evil.  So, I said, "Yes."

So, she asked me to provide an example.  I said, "Well, I'm an atheist, for instance.  I don't believe in any magic or ghosts or anything, but I see people on television who do believe those things.  I'm sure they think I'm strange or false for not believing that."

But she didn't understand the term "atheist" and so she started scribbling notes, I assume about ghosts and magic and people in the television.

She asked, "What do you think about that?"

"About what other people think about what I think?" I laughed again, "I think they're wrong, but I don't understand why that's important."

Something about what I said struck her as odd, so she backtracked.

"Can you tell me more about this, ayteeism?"

"What do you mean?  There's not much to tell."

"I don't know.  I've just never heard the word.  Can you spell it?"

"Sure. A-T-H-E-I-S-M. I don't believe in god.  In fact, I think faith is wrong.  I think science is the appropriate method for people in life. So, I don't believe in magic or ghosts or anything like that.  But there are a lot of people who disagree."

That made it clear for her and she started furiously crossing out her notes.

Apparently, it is perfectly and equally sane to believe that there are invisible spirits and forces beyond your perception and understanding affecting your life as it is to reject such foolishness out of hand.

I would like to suggest that mental health professionals screen for people of faith and dig into thata bit more extensively.  After all, the difference between sane and insane in matters of faith doesn't seem to be the content or even the extent to which the individual applies these ideas to their life, but the number of people who agree to be the same brand of crazy.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Category: Mythology and Modern Man
Post contains 536 words, total size 3 kb.

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