Thursday, 31 July 2008
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
But wait: "unlike Pluto or Eris, Makemake shows little evidence of nitrogen ice on its surface, suggesting that its supply of nitrogen has somehow been depleted over the age of the Solar System." This is evidence of life, surely! Like several Kuiper belt objects, Makemake has a transient atmosphere: heated and subliming, giving the indigienous life time to lock down its nitrogen, then cooling and freezing, preserving them in stasis.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
The answer, surprisingly, is that people use just four fundamental models for organizing most aspects of sociality most of the time in all cultures (Fiske 1991a, 1992). These models are Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, and Market Pricing. Communal Sharing (CS) is a relationship in which people treat some dyad or group as equivalent and undifferentiated with respect to the social domain in question. Examples are people using a commons (CS with respect to utilization of the particular resource), people intensely in love (CS with respect to their social selves), people who "ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee" (CS with respect to shared suffering and common well-being), or people who kill any member of an enemy group indiscriminately in retaliation for an attack (CS with respect to collective responsibility). In Authority Ranking (AR) people have asymmetric positions in a linear hierarchy in which subordinates defer, respect, and (perhaps) obey, while superiors take precedence and take pastoral responsibility for subordinates. Examples are military hierarchies (AR in decisions, control, and many other matters), ancestor worship (AR in offerings of filial piety and expectations of protection and enforcement of norms), monotheistic religious moralities (AR for the definition of right and wrong by commandments or will of God), social status systems such as class or ethnic rankings (AR with respect to social value of identities), and rankings such as sports team standings (AR with respect to prestige). AR relationships are based on perceptions of legitimate asymmetries, not coercive power; they are not inherently exploitative (although they may involve power or cause harm). In Equality Matching relationships people keep track of the balance or difference among participants and know what would be required to restore balance. Common manifestations are turn-taking, one-person one-vote elections, equal share distributions, and vengeance based on an-eye-for-an-eye, a-tooth-for-a-tooth. Examples include sports and games (EM with respect to the rules, procedures, equipment and terrain), baby-sitting coops (EM with respect to the exchange of child care), and restitution in-kind (EM with respect to righting a wrong). Market Pricing relationships are oriented to socially meaningful ratios or rates such as prices, wages, interest, rents, tithes, or cost-benefit analyses. Money need not be the medium, and MP relationships need not be selfish, competitive, maximizing, or materialistic—any of the four models may exhibit any of these features. MP relationships are not necessarily individualistic; a family may be the CS or AR unit running a business that operates in an MP mode with respect to other enterprises. Examples are property that can be bought, sold, or treated as investment capital (land or objects as MP), marriages organized contractually or implicitly in terms of costs and benefits to the partners, prostitution (sex as MP), bureaucratic cost-effectiveness standards (resource allocation as MP), utilitarian judgments about the greatest good for the greatest number, or standards of equity in judging entitlements in proportion to contributions (two forms of morality as MP), considerations of "spending time" efficiently, and estimates of expected kill ratios (aggression as MP).
It's a fascinating matrix of points of analysis; but its emphasis on parsing vertical and horizontal social perceptions of self/other it ignores, or has no place for, some key ways in which relationships are formualted. The most obvious missing element is the aesthetic: the connection we feel, or to which we aspire, grounded on beauty.
Monday, 28 July 2008
Sunday, 27 July 2008
It was as deep as England. It held
Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old
That past nightfall I dared not cast
But silently cast and fished
With the hair frozen on my head
For what might move, for what eye might move
The still splashes on the dark pond,
Owls hushing the floating woods
Frail on my ear against the dream
Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed,
That rose slowly towards me, watching. [1960; pp.85-6]
That 'deep as England' is the key: this fish is the grotesque pre-ichthus that lurks beneath Christian England. That sense of this country as a place where the sleep of trees produces monsters (owls hushing the floating woods). Don't stir up the ancestral waters; you won't like what you rouse.
There's context, too: Hughes's 1960 'three-inch long' pike has a 'silhouette/Of submarine selicacy and horror./A hundred feet long in their world'. HMS Dreadnought, Britain's first nuclear-powered submarine was 265 feet long, and was launched by the Queen on Trafalgar day in 1960. What secret business was it about? Hush those floating woods ... don't tell them, Pike.
Saturday, 26 July 2008
Friday, 25 July 2008
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
Monday, 21 July 2008
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Saturday, 19 July 2008
Friday, 18 July 2008
Thursday, 17 July 2008
I'm rather intrigued by the notion (which, I'm surprised and a little ashamed to confess, has only just occurred to me) that Tenniel's Alice's Caterpillar is a satirical dig at the British judiciary. Martin Gardner notes how Tenniel made the first two rows of caterpillarian legs the being's nose and chin, which is very neat; and I remember thinking as a child how like a treble clef the curling of the hookah's line is. But to look at the image is to note the resemblance of the caterpillar's back to a judicial wig (Ede and Ravenscroft's Legal Habits: a Brief Sartorial History of Wig, Robe [pdf] makes plain that in the nineteenth-century (and unlike today) Judges wore 'a larger full-bottomed stle of wig' where attorneys and lawyers wore 'bobwigs' and 'pigtails' respectively); and the sleeve looks very like the sleeve of a judicial gown. The question is whether Tenniel had any larger point, beyond linking Judges with the indolence and orientalism associated with the hookah?
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Science Fiction, of course, has spent the twentieth-century splendidly contradicting the second part of Hume's little assertion here. What it needs to do, in the twenty-first, is to contradict the first part too.
Monday, 14 July 2008
But the senselessness here isn't in the description (after all, a Beethoven symphony is a variation in wave pressure) but in our lacking the capacity to translate that description into a somatic apprehension. Translating the sounds of that symphony into msuical script is only senseless for the person who can't read music; for the person who can it is intensely senseful. Variations in wave pressure is the same thing.
Sunday, 13 July 2008
The news on the BBC earlier this week was about the Church of England ordaining female bishops, and those members of the Church so outraged by this decision that they are planning to leave. At root (since none of those upset could be coaxed into saying but women are inferior to men!) their outrage was based upon: but this is not what I am used to! To say that something violates tradition is always, at root, to denigrate it because it's not what we're used to. And part of me thinks, fair enough: continuity and tradition and important props to help human subjectivity along its torturous path. But it also makes me want to say to one of these anti-female-bishop Anglicans: have you even read the New Testament? It's a text open to a number of interpretations of course, but one thing that comes unambiguously out of it is the message: everything is different now. It is a book that says, in its whole as well as in numerous specific places: give up your attachments to the old ways, however comforting you find them. It's all new. To live according to the logic of the Gospels, surely, must be to live as thoroughly as you can the everythingness and the difference and the nowness of everything is different now.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
"Actually that is something else that bothers me about the book. Why did he very deliberately choose 1848, the year of revolutions? The Franco-British war (what pitifully small portion of it we glimpse) bears more relationship to Napoleonic era warfare nearly half a century earlier. "
Or: Liliputians might be exploited to make smaller and more intricate machines; but in a C19th context such machines are really just toys. On the other hand, Brobdingnagians would be used to do the super-heavy lifting, and for that reason the big machines of the C19th industrial revolution need not be invented. Since it is the big machines that made the industrial revolution happen, this would surely have an effect of stagnating technological advance. It's different now, of course: although culture is often strangely enamoured of enormities of scale, in fact the late 20th-century technological revolution was all about miniaturisation (about the Lillis, not the Brobs).
Friday, 11 July 2008
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Monday, 7 July 2008
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Saturday, 5 July 2008
Friday, 4 July 2008
Thursday, 3 July 2008
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
'He waved a long-fingered hand, and Tiadba noticed that on the tip of his sixth-finger—he had six fingers and an odd thumb, mounted in the center of his palm—there was a pink flower. Patient observation, as Pahtun spoke and waved his hand some more, rewarded her with the realization that this flower was in fact a cluster of six-smaller fingers—perhaps used in delicate tasks’ [Bear, City, 287]
What makes this little image so striking is its peculiarly fractal logic, its extension of our sense of a human being as (to appropriate Lear’s words) a poor forked thing: a unitary, single ‘body’ (which we tend to mistake for ‘us’) branches into two arms, into two legs. Each arm branches at its end into five digits. Bear simply imaginatively extends this logic: it is hard, I submit, to think of the finger branching into six miniature fingers without wondering whether each of these mini-fingers does not also end in even smaller fingers—perhaps . Our hands, howsoever useful they are as manipulators and signifiers, also represent one place where our body frays.