Saturday, October 30, 2004

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Count me in as someone who always loved Halloween. As a child it was a fun day, an opportunity to eat candy and hear scary stories. As I grew older, my sweet tooth faded as did the opportunity to be scared in that fun kind of way that can only happen when you are young.

Years later as an adult, I stumbled on to the "Coast to Coast AM" show late at night. "Coast to Coast AM" was originally hosted by Art Bell, who retired and was replaced by George Noory. Here was a guy in the middle of the night telling stories about space aliens, witchcraft and government conspiracies. His show was a kind of permanent Halloween. It was fun and I listened on the occasions that I was up late. Being a natural skeptic, I knew these were just stories. After all, it's fun being scared late at night. Or so I thought.

A few months back, while driving home after a late night I listened in. George's topic was on an apparition he called "The Hag." I listened intently to what seemed to be a classic haunted tale. The Hag was a spirit, maybe a ghost and maybe a witch. She was ethereal, but physically aged and hideous. Caller after caller told George of the horrors of her visits. The Hag's victim would awaken in their bed in the middle of the night. They could see the Hag. Often they could smell her, a rotten musty smell. They could hear her banshee like voice shrieking. She would be sitting on their chest, riding them the way a witch rides her broom. They would try to scream, but they couldn't breathe. They would try to move, but were paralyzed. Finally, the apparition would disappear and they could move and breathe again. Needless to say, few of them were able to find restful slumber after such a haunting.

I chuckled at the stories as I drove home that evening. Then I forgot about it. Until this week. My wife and daughter took a short trip to visit my mother in law. The house was quiet, dark and a bit cool. The wind howled and I could hear the rain on the roof. I retired for bed early, hoping to catch up on some reading. Too tired, I soon gave up. I turned on the television, to see the last innings of the World Series game that evening. I drifted off to sleep before the game ended.

I suddenly awoke. There was the horrid apparition, straight out of hell. She wailed in my face. I knew it was the Hag. My mind flashed back to George Noory and his callers' stories. I tried to scream, knowing it would be useless. I drew a large breath and howled like a baby. Wait, I thought. That wasn't supposed to happen. Then I realized the Hag wasn't on my chest. She was on my television. The Hag was Patty Wetterling! It was just a commercial for her congressional campaign. I leapt from my bed and turned off the television. I had a hard time sleeping that night. I comforted myself with the fact that my ordeal was over. Then I realized it wasn't: she might actually win her election.

Friday, October 29, 2004

First the Red Sox Win, Then This

A hearty congratulations to the Atomizer and bride on today, their wedding day! Even a nihilist can wish them best of luck.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Nobody Can Take My Head

I plan to violate my rule of never posting quite a bit in what remains of October. Although it may not benefit me. To my amazement, my piece on the benefits of not voting was met with intellectual property theft by the creators of South Park.

To recap, on 10/26/04 I posted a rather long winded piece about the benefits of not voting. In said piece, I strongly criticized the do-gooders who demand that everyone vote and in particular targeted one Sean "Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Hey Diddle Diddle, etc." Combs for his ridiculous "Vote or Die" campaign.

Imagine my surprise when the all new episode of South Park, airing 10/27/04, contained a story line about a school election where the hero, Stan Marsh, is castigated for his refusal to vote by just about everyone in town. The show (a la the Nihlist in Golf Pants) strongly criticized the do gooders who cajoled and threatened Stan into voting, including one Sean (the man of 1000 nicknames) Combs, who performs a hilarious rap parody entitled "Vote or Die," where he and his posse threaten stan with hand guns.

What amazes me is that they can put together a 22 minute animated program with little more than one day of preparation. Can mockery of Puffy be considered intellectual property? If so, I could be a very rich man.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Vote or Don't

The most annoying thing about the month of October is the incessant "Get Out the Vote" campaigns that spring from the most surprising places. It is obvious why George W. Bush, John Kerry or your US or State Representative would want to ensure that their supporters get out of their houses and vote. After all, their paycheck as well as their sense of self-importance depends upon their supporters affirming their ambitions. So when I have to slam the front door in a nosy neighbor's face for coming by to drop off glossy literature for the candidate of their choice, I do it with the knowledge that they are playing to win.

What I don't understand, though, is why someone would generally make the assumption that voting is good and not voting is bad. You surely have seen the supposedly non-partisan public service announcements bemoaning the fact that that in last election, half of all eligible Americans failed to exercise their right to vote. Why do these nanny staters care if I or anyone else throws their right away?

I think there are really two answers to this question. The first is that many "non-partisan" efforts are really partisan efforts in disguise. When P. Diddy promotes his "Vote or Die" message in the inner city, he is really saying, I want you to put the crack pipe down and stand in line for an hour to vote for John Kerry. His logic is that no more than 1/3 of his fans would possibly vote the other way, so the more people he gets out, the more he helps his guy. I can respect that kind of manipulative behavior.

The second kind of behavior I cannot excuse. It is the assumption that I am so important that I am doing a public good by honoring my inferiors with my benevolent wisdom. It's the kind of arrogance that leads to the likes of David Schwimmer appearing in televised Public Service Announcements asking us to thank our teachers. Here's my most ridiculous example of this type of thinking. PBS broadcasts a children's show called Zoom! Since PBS is federally funded, it doesn't need to be entertaining, so this piece of crap has graced its afternoon airwaves since the mid 1970's. I'm not sure the target age of their audience, but it is clearly a pre-teen demographic. Yet they have a campaign currently running on their show and website called Zoom Out the Vote! They say the same whiney crap about not letting your parents waste their vote. They actually believe peer pressure from the Zoom! kids will cause children to influence their parents to vote. Mind you, these Zoom kids make Napolean Dynamite look like Ferris Bueller.

I propose a nihilistic vote drive, called "Vote or Don't!" If you feel like voting, fine. If you aren't planning on voting and feel pressured by all these do gooders, then this is the drive for you! Here are my 10 most relevant reasons not to vote:
  • The 2000 presidential election was among the closest ever. When all was said and done, the election boiled down to the results in Florida, not the state where you live. Even if you do live in Florida, your vote didn't matter, because the count had Bush up by a couple of hundred votes. So not only did your vote not matter, if you are a canvasser, even a pretty successful one, you probably had nothing to do with the results of the election.
  • The odds of you casting the deciding vote in any election (meaning a one vote margin your way) is over 1,000,000 to one.
  • The odds of getting into a car accident on your way to vote is greater than the odds of you casting the deciding vote (see above).
  • You might make a mistake. Imagine my shock at learning that this person voted for Jesse Ventura! That's a badge of shame that no one should chance wearing. Editors note: Outing a Ventura voter is not a pleasant experience. I am quite regretful and feel as if I need to take a shower.
  • You might get confused and end up wasting your vote anyway.
  • Since ballots are secret, you really don't know if yours counted.
  • If you are voting Republican, union thugs might beat you. If you are a minority and voting Democrat, the police might do same. While both these statements are probably BS, why chance it?
  • In the time it takes to vote, you could watch your favorite TV show, possibly twice.
  • Driving to the polling place pollutes the environment.

And the final (for now) excuse for not voting is:

  • People who say that "If you don't vote, you don't have the right to complain are lying!" The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides for the right to free speech. It makes no qualification for voters and non-voters. So sit back on your fat American butt and complain as loud as you can!

Deriding Derrida

In an obituary no less. Here are some choice cuts from The Economist:

The inventor of “deconstruction”—an ill-defined habit of dismantling texts by revealing their assumptions and contradictions—was indeed, and unfortunately, one of the most cited modern scholars in the humanities.

Nice intro.

There has always been a market for obscurantism. Socrates railed against the followers of Heraclitus of Ephesus for much the same reasons that Mr Derrida's critics berate his unfortunate disciples:

If you ask one of them a question, they draw out enigmatic little expressions from their quiver, so to speak, and shoot one off; and if you try to get hold of an account of what that one meant, you're transfixed by another novel set of metaphors. You'll never get anywhere with any of them.

Subjected to his weak puns (“logical phallusies” was a famous example), bombastic rhetoric and illogical ramblings, an open-minded reader might suspect Mr Derrida of charlatanism. That would be going too far, however. He was a sincere and learned man, if a confused one, who offered some academics and students just what they were looking for.

Well, at least he meant well.

Mr Derrida's style of deconstruction flowered especially in American departments of comparative literature, where it became interwoven with Marxism, feminism and anti-colonialism. Although by the early 1980s French academics had largely tired of trying to make sense of him, America's teachers of literature increasingly embraced Mr Derrida. Armed with an impenetrable new vocabulary, and without having to master any rigorous thought, they could masquerade as social, political and philosophical critics. Mr Derrida always denied any responsibility for the undisciplined nihilism of his imitators, who gave the strong impression that deconstructionism had somehow succeeded in undermining, or even in refuting, the notion of objective truth. But his work could not easily be interpreted in any other way.

His legacy proudly lives on college campuses across the country. Merci beaucoup Jacques.

A crisis came in 1987. The New York Times revealed that Paul de Man, a friend of Mr Derrida's and one of America's leading deconstructionists, had written anti-Semitic articles for a pro-Nazi Belgian newspaper in 1940-42. Coincidentally, also in 1987, evidence began to emerge of the hidden Nazi past of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who had been a major influence on Mr Derrida. Mr Derrida's response was disastrous. He used deconstructionist techniques to defend the two men, laying down a fog of convoluted rhetoric in a doomed attempt to exonerate them. This fed straight into the hands of his critics, who had always argued that the playful evasiveness of deconstruction masked its moral and intellectual bankruptcy. The New York Review of Books quipped that deconstruction means never having to say you're sorry.

Sounds like a philosophy that Dan Rather has embraced.

In his final years he became increasingly concerned with religion, and some theologians started to show interest in his work. God help them.

And God help all those who fall under the spell of Derrida.

Monday, October 18, 2004

You The Uberman!

The bitter winds of October bring cold, rain, and soon snow to the once green grass of the fairways. The icy scythe of death has swept over the greens, as it will one day sweep over all of us. The golf course is as empty as our future. The golf season is over. And yet our pointless lives go on. Why?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Most Productive Blog on the Web

You may not know this, but Nihilist in Golf Pants is the most productive blog on the internet if you measure the number of links from other bloggers to posts produced. Yet for some strange reason people keep clamoring for more. Commenter Sisyphus asks for:

. . . commentary from Nihlist [sic] in Golf Pants on two recent events: the death of Jacques Derrida and the marriage of Tiger Woods.

I'd say Tiger definitely got the better deal.

All kidding aside, there is one striking parallel to explore. Derrida, if memory serves me correctly, was a pioneer of the philosophy of Deconstructionism. His primary thesis was that because language an imperfect communication form, a listener can never know a speaker's precise intentions. This is something Tiger Woods will learn quickly as a new husband.

When studying Jacques Derrida, it is important not to confuse him with his contemporary, "Curly" Joe DeRita of Three Stooges fame. DeRita was a deconstructionist in his own way, often poking Moe and Larry in the eye, or hitting them with blunt objects.