Monday, February 01, 2016

Fun with Foucalt - Jacques Lacan's Penis Edition

"Fun with Foucalt" is a new series that I am starting to honor the Great Men and Womyn laboring in the vinyards of literary deconstruction and post structuralism who brighten our drab lives with the most ludicrous gobbledygook.  For some reason the best ones are all French. For our first episode I present Jaques Lacan rendering his world renowned proof that his penis is in fact the square root of negative one. Now you might worry that this is NSFW but no one normal could possibly tell whatinthehell this minder binder is talking about. Which is why "Fun with Foucalt" is such an important public service. So without further ado - to the jibberjabber:

Jacques Lacan
Lacan sought to give his deconstruction some methodical rigor with the following equation:

S (signifier)

——————  = s ( the statement ), with S = ( -1 ), produces: s = √ -1

s (signified)

“Thus the erectile organ comes to symbolize the place of jouissance, not in itself, or even in the form of an image, but as a part lacking in the desired image: that is why it is equivalent to the √ -1 of the signification produced above, of the jouissance that it restores by the coefficient of its statement to the function of lack of signifier (-1).”

Now is that cool or what?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Die drones, die?

I walk on a golf course in the evening, which this time of year means in the dark. Recently one or more drones have been following my progress. At least I think they're drones. I certainly hope they are. Anyway, I assume these 'drones' are being piloted by neighborhood lads who got them from Santa. Incidentally, I have a similar issue with Santa as he flies around willy nilly on one of the heaviest drinking nights of the year, inevitably scaring legitimately drunk revelers into premature sobriety. And now the Kringlemeister is indoctrinating our youth in unauthorized fly bys.Honestly, the geezer is beginning to grate and I hate grated geezer. But I digress. What I really wanted to know is: 1. Do you think that I'm right about the neighborhood lads dealing the drones? And 2. If so, is it considered overly sensitive to shoot the sumbitches out of the sky and 3. If not, should I use a Twelve Gauge with a Varmint round or some other ordinance for optimal drone death dealing. And 4. What happens if I'm wrong and it's aliens or the CIA? but I repeat myself.
Trying to be Tolerant of the Tykes New Toys in Texas. And Failing.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Why Rome endured while we might fall

Rome lasted for over 700 years as a republic and then republican empire. It then became a true empire under Octavian /Caesar Augustus which lasted another 4 centuries in the west and in truncated form another 12 to 15 in the east. The Pax Romana lasted roughly 5 centuries.  In those years the threat to Roman rule never really came from anyone but other Romans. The  question is why?  How could one small group of wildly bigoted and superstitious knuckleheads hold sway for so long?

Why did the Pax persist? 

There are deterministic 'explanations':  the Roman Empire coincided with a climate optimum warmer than today which (contrary to today's 'scientific' claims) led to prosperity and population growth. Because of the structure of the Med, after Carthage was destroyed (I have the T shirt updated for Texas:  Dallas delenda Est - and oh my God it certainly must) there were no viable rivals due to the structure of Greek Culture and the somnolence of the Egyptians.  But these ultimately fail to answer the question:  yes I know the weather was good back then, but why Rome?  Yes many city states were quarrelsome and selfish but why not Rome?  Yes, many empires became satiated and somnolent like the Egyptians but the Parthians didn't so why not them? 

I submit that there are two primary reasons that Rome persisted for so long. The first is that their elites believed in themselves and their project far more and for far longer than anyone else did. This intense belief, even faith in the Roman way permeated the entire society, down through the plebs and even the servile.

And uniquely for back then, they believed that their role was a  universal civilizing one rather than a particular one - which leads me to my second reason: Rome had a genius for making outsiders into Roman insiders.  Wherever Rome went it implemented its distinctive package of institutions and cultural artifacts, elevating the local elites culturally and legally to become Romans. In doing so, newly conquered peoples were in due time turned into pacified provinces of the Roman Imperium. That the eastern half of the empire spoke Greek really didn't matter:  it was still Roman rule with the same norms. And the same pride and cultural "autorictus" that both overawed and rewarded other elites. And the outcome? Prosperity, peace and hegemony unrivaled in its scope and length until the modern era.

I'm reminded of this because I've been reading a biography of Julius Caesar, specifically Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy - a true classical scholar, I recommend anything by him, possibly including his grocery list. In it he describes how the Romans built their national and cultural pride via education:

This thinking is no longer acceptable in the west. Indeed the British Empire succumbed not when it ran out of resources (after all they had built their empire when they were far poorer) but when its elites stopped believing that Great Britain was Great.  They abandoned their civilizing mission and instead turned inward to socialism and comfort - they stopped believing, stopped dreaming. Fortunately for the world, the Pax Britannica was saved by an America that still believed in itself, extending a general peace and prosperity for another 60 or so years.  It is now failing - not because America lacks the resources or the technology to continue to lead and dominate the globe but because its ruling elites now largely believe the opposite of what the Roman (or previous generations of British and American) elites believed. Western elites now hold that we are only special in our special wrongness: our unique environmental destructiveness - in spite of living in the cleanest countries in the world, our uniquely evil racism and sexism - despite being the most egalitarian polities in world history,  our unique warmongering - despite building the Pax  into the most peaceful era in the world history.

And just like the Western Roman Empire in the 400s, the West is seeing massive waves of immigration from other cultures who want the comfort, wealth and safety produced by the west but to one degree or another are rejecting the culture that produced it.  And why shouldn't they?  The people with all the power and money in the west often don't believe in their own culture's superiority - indeed they teach the immigrants that their own cultures are superior and not to abandon them. This is a bit odd given that the the very act of immigration testifies to an opposite belief in some important respects.  But of course our elites also don't believe in the validity of people' choices nor their judgement, whether or not immigrant.

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Western culture’s got to go.
– Slogan from 1988 Stanford University protest led by Jesse Jackson. 
Leaders in America and Europe don’t want to confront Islamic fundamentalism, or other nasty manifestations of post-Western thinking, because they increasingly no longer believe in our own core values. At the same time, devoted to the climate issue, they are squandering our new energy revolution by attempting to “decarbonize,” essentially leaving the field and the financial windfall to our friends in Riyadh, Moscow, Tehran and Raqqa.
In other words many of our leaders use our very success to define our depravity:  are we rich? that's only because we have 'exploited' the environment and others and therefore we need to 'repent'.  But the fact that tens of millions of others are coming to our shores doesn't indicate their need for what we have, instead it gives us the opportunity to abase ourselves and submit to their higher wisdom which oddly enough wasn't sufficient to keep them at home much less attract any of us.
So our elites interpret catastrophic violence and failures of governance in places like Syria and Iraq as evidence of Western failures rather than as a collapse in Islamic and Arab culture.  They then demand that we import large numbers of people who have been raised in and are part of these failed nations' and cultures without reflecting upon why they are fleeing to us in the first place.  Nor do we reflect upon  the paradox that by refusing to assert the superiority of our culture and values by requiring their adoption, we end up importing the same pathogens that are tearing the middle east and central Asia apart.

It seems a religious madness has gotten hold of our educated and wealthy elites so that they cannot see our strengths or others' deadly, contagious weaknesses. Which is a terrifying portent for the future.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Houston Christmas

Chestnuts rotting in the humid air
Fungus nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by the air conditioner
And folks dressed up like life guards

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make a season bright
Tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep in the heat

They know that Santa's on his way
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his bass boat
And every mother's child is gonna spy
To see if Alligators really know how to fly

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it's been said many times
Many ways, Houston Christmas, to you.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Zombie Hedge Apples from Outer SpaĆ aaaace.

I was undertaking my mandatory  Thanksgiving postprandial peregrination when I espied a peculiar protuberance from fallen hedge apples in an Austin field. Some of the hedge apples had taken a rust colored hue on one side. At first I though that said rust was simply rot from the dying hedge apple's core but when I drew nearer it became apparent that whatever was brown was also alive. Well not so much alive as not dead.

Before that day I would have characterized things in this world as either "living" or "dead" what the Grammar Dominatrix's (trixi? trixians?) at my high school called a "Mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive" or MECE list. No longer. For the "rust" was actually the furious activity of thousands of alien zombies preparing to decamp their Death...Apples and put Central Texas to the sword or ray gun or whatever. 

Fortunately for the Austinite computer geeks resplendent in their matching hipster habits, the Rust Colored Cohort's grasp of interstellar scale was squat.  The entire million zombie army carried on 20 or so Death Apples weighed no more than a couple table spoons of malt o meal. And looked similar. My brother's dog was with me and he wiped - actually licked - out an entire Death Apple's landing cohort. And for reasons understood only by other alien zombie soldiers, an army that crossed interstellar space at faster than the speed of light decided that they would conquer earth on foot. Which means they will get to my brother's house sometime in early 2017. If the dog doesn't lick them first.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My kids ain't Candyass Yalies

My Grandfather Elmer Elton Savage was born to sharecroppers in the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. He attended school right over the border in Elgin, Kansas - he and his brothers would avoid walking two extra miles by taking a rope swing Tarzan style over the Caney River. He graduated the sixth grade before beginning his career as a "roustabout" on oil rigs. Difficult, dirty, dangerous work and my Grandad started when he was 13, ending his career some 50 years later as Regional Production Superintendent in the Permian Basin. In a real sense he was a key man in the industry that makes our cars go. So you can understand why when one of his Grandsons (moi) matriculated University he would refer to me as a "Yalie" (particularly when I would say "who? Moi?") even though I never got near Yale, attending Tulsa and Chicago (now my father nearly became a Yalie which may have influenced Grandad's rhetoric - sort of a retrospective warning). When I said or did something particularly egregious (which you'll be shocked to know actually happened) he would call me a "candyass Yalie" .

But I think if Grandad had witnessed the utterly unhinged howling and shrieking on display at Yale this last week he would have apologized for associating me with any of them.  Because if I had displayed that type of childish - no toddlerish - behavior in front of him he would have kicked my ass all the way to El Paso.

And so I must take some modest credit (jointly with their mother, Diane) for saving my children from the Yalie fate.  You see I'm a libertarian conservative and by and large I taught my kids to interpret the world that way.  So when they toddled off to school and now University (not Yale, thank God and Man) they had a proto-world view that their much more left wing teachers and professors constantly challenged.  They never had the luxury of having their every bias and whim validated for them in every forum they attended.  And while I don't think they were ever taught by avowed Marxist Leninists or Radical Islamists, I believe they were exposed to some of the widest range of worldviews available in America today. Which will serve them in good stead as they navigate life's slings and arrows (Is that a mixed metaphor?  How can you navigate slings?  Or arrows?  Oh well).

The problem with leftish thinking in America today is not so much that the left critique of our society is all wrong but that because of the nature of our educational system and news media it's the only meta narrative that you tend to hear in public (outside of churches and Fox News, that is) and going through childhood without ever having your preconceived notions challenged makes for very weak and emotional thinkers. I have great, guilty fun debating friends who have been marinated their whole life in the standard vaguely leftish received wisdom.  I flummox them, I rabbit punch them, I pull the Ali "I am the greatest rope a dope" on them.  It is so much fun but quite illegitimate.  Because I'm no smarter than them. It's just that I've  spent most of my life sparring with teachers, professors and Phd candidates and doing lots of two and three on me's with friends.  It makes you tough and teaches you your opponents' weaknesses and most importantly:  your own.

And that's what I did for my kids - not because I thought of it but because it's who I am - I'm stupid lucky that way.  Look, I don't know where my kids are going to end up on the political spectrum but I know they won't ever behave like the panicked, shrieking, cursing, spitting leftists at Yale.  They're too tough for that.

So Grandad, I guarantee that your Great Grandkids will never, ever be "Candyass Yalies".

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Chicago Cubs and Isomorphic Mimicry

I've been reflecting on the Cub's recent success and their ongoing campaign to become a "championship" team. I'm afraid it will end in tears.

I say this not as a resentful Cardinal fan but as a concerned citizen who wants to help others avoid terrible, humiliating mistakes.  Because I've been reading Frank Fukuyama (of Fuk! It's the End of History Fame) and I've learned a Big Word - well actually two: "Isomorphic mimicry" which he nicked from a gang of developmental economists gone bad. IM refers to the tendency of less developed non western cultures to adopt the forms of western institutions (parliaments, bills of rights, welfare states and so on) without possessing the underlying cultural attributes from which these institutions sprang. Which results in a mess. I suppose the answer is for everyone to live their own lives and quit sticking their noses into other people's business which of course is the answer to most things. But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

What I wanted to say was this: I'm worried that the Cubs and their legions of Old Style besotted fans are committing the mistake of sports Isomorphic mimicry. You see the Cubs have recently advanced to the National League Championship series - which is a form characteristic of championship cultures like the St. Louis Cardinals. And the problem is that the Cubs represent a "loser" culture. According to developmental economists, trying to graft a championship team onto a loser culture is destined to fail. Recall the last time the Cubs wandered into the playoffs: they had almost won their first trip to the World Championship since God knows when and what happened? A desperately loyal fan reached out and interfered with an easy pop foul which resulted in their loss. It's almost as if the loser culture as embodied in that hapless pawn of a fan reached out and thwarted the attempt by Cub elites to impose an inappropriate isomorph on an institution known the world over for hopeless haplessness (or is that hapless hoplenessness, hmm).

It's better if indigenous cultures develop their own organic sports team forms. For example the Cubs could really build on their league leading "Worst Franchise Ever".....franchise. It is so much easier to go with the grain.

What? You come here and say that! Well then back off man, this is science!