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Showing posts from July 10, 2005

five hundred years of madness

There was a series of experiments on humans conducted in the twenties that would have warmed Dostoevsky’s heart. Warmed? Well, perhaps the temperature of that word is incorrect. Put it like this: these results would have cheered up the Underground Man. The problem was a military one. How does a company of soldiers orient itself in the fog? The problem extended to orientation itself. My current fascination with McManus’ book on handedness turned me on to the experiments of one Asa A. Schaeffer of the University of Kansas. Schaeffer took advantage of Kansas’ outstanding trait – flatness, no trees. He put people in the driving seat in cars, blindfolded them, and had them drive straight. He blindfolded other subjects and had them swim, or walk. The results were reported “in a paper entitled Spiral Movement in Man,(Journal of Morphology and Physiology, Vol. 45,No I, March, 1928). He finds that whether walking, swimming, rowing a boat, or driving an automobile, the tendency of a blindfolde

Some good things about our President

LI has often had harsh things to say about President Bush. But fairness requires that we also praise the President when he is right. Lately, we’ve been thinking that Bush must have received intelligence that Osama bin Laden is particularly vulnerable to humor. The man has several congenital diseases, and the frail system might shake itself mortally out of shape if subject to enough fits of laughter. That explains much of the policy we are pursuing in Iraq, and throws a flickering light on the unexpected keenness of our Texan president, known for his pratfalls on bikes already. From class clown to strategy leader – such things can only happen in America. For instance, this story, from the Kurdish press, shows how cleverly Bush is pushing the “fatal joke” plan: Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa stating that the future Iraqi state will be called “The Islamic Federal Republic of Iraq.” On 10th of July, al-Sistani had issued another fatwa in which he stated, “The Iraqi constitution mu
My friend D. sent me a little CD the other day. It had the Rage against the Machine song on it, Killing in the Name of. D. is an old Metallica fan, from before they had an on-call psychoanalyst. Myself, I love noise, but I am not a metal person. I particularly hate the voices that a lot of metal music features, in which some singer has to assume the precise sound that would be made by the Cowardly Lion on meth – a fake monster voice, full of empty volume and scatchiness. All of which gets me, by a detour, to today’s topic: La Salamandre and Nietzsche. A couple of days ago I saw Alain Tanner’s La Salamandre. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It was made in 1971, and Tanner had obviously seen his Godard, his Antonioni. It has the political language of Godard, and it has the dissipative structure (minus beautiful dresses and garden parties among statuary) of Antonioni. But the political language – exchanged by two down and out writers, one of whom makes his real money as a part time hous

L'affaire du collier

"Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation ..." Cooper proceeded to spell out some guidance on a story that was beginning to roil Washington. He finished, "please don't source this to rove or even WH [White House]" Some Time journalists have expressed concern that the company's decision could have a chilling effect on their relations with sources and could hinder their newsgathering efforts. "We're very much worried about what kind of signal this sends," Ms. Tumulty said. In Washington, she added, "confidentiality is the lubricant of journalism." In re the summer’s mini-Rove scandal: LI has been searching for historical parallels to write about Matt Cooper’s revealing email, as published by Newsweek. It throws a nice light on the mores of the press corps. This is how the sausage is packaged (incidentally, last night we saw Alain Tanner’s excellent film, La Salamandre (1971). So we ha

chiral up!

Lately, LI has been enjoying Chris McManus’ book Left Hand, Right Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures. We love an omnium gatherum, of which this is a superior instance. Also, handedness is naturally of interest to the philosophically minded. It comes as no surprise (although, actually, it did come as a surprise) that one of the great pioneers in the study of the problem of handedness was Immanuel Kant. Kant thought that the dispute over absolute or relative space – the dispute between Newton and Leibnitz – could be resolved by considering right and left. Kant was, as always, right (a word etymologically connected, as all handedness researchers assure us, to the superstitious reverence accorded to the right hand, just as superstition accords ill luck to the left – the left is “cack-handed”), although as always, he was also wrong. In 1768, Kant wrote a little essay entitled Von dem ersten Grunde des Unterschiedes der Gegenden im Raum (usually translated a

dissociative politics

The Plame affair is a curious cultural relic. It revolves around an utterly revolting law that prevents the names of covert CIA operatives from being leaked. This unnecessary constraint on our civil liberties was passed in 1994, meaning that we somehow managed to trundle through the Cold War without it. The Alice in Wonderland aspect of the case begins with the law, which has suddenly become a sacred thing, next to the flag and motherhood, in the liberal ‘sphere. Taking down America’s imperial ambitions, or at least making them transparent, is never going to occur if the transparency is blocked by a trumpery law. Novak is an utterly ridiculous figure, in LI’s view, but we are glad he revealed the inner workings of this particular action. Far from being a traitor, actions like Novak’s are necessary if we are ever going to rein them in. Laws like the non-disclosure law are not, however, ever about treason, but about court society. The exist in order to create vectors of blackmail and bla