Saturday, February 28, 2009

Deconstructing Morality

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

— Matthew 5:28 (TNIV)

In Attempted Murder, Steve Gimbel asks,

Why do we have a crime called attempted murder? Isn't the problem that you tried your best to kill someone — whether you succeeded or not?

The law, it seems, balances two things: intent and deed.

If you point a gun at someone and intend to shoot and kill them, and do shoot and kill them, then the punishment is higher than if you miss, or if you don't intend to kill them (just a "warning" shot?) but do, or you think it is really a blank loaded in the gun but there isn't, or you are just waving your gun around and shoot and kill your friend by pure "accident", or ...

(If one is in the film Minority Report [from a Philip K. Dick tale], then you could merely be lying in bed, thinking of getting your gun and shooting and killing someone, and the precogs would send the police over to arrest you. Your act of thinking is all that is needed for an arrest.)

Actual deed may be easy to assess, and actual intent is more difficult (by today's science), but to somehow remove the combination of the two (just deed, or just intent) from the law would just be too freaky to fathom.

This is the legal perspective. But what of the moral (which is what Jesus was getting at, perhaps). People all the time, it seems, want to make a distinction between what is legal and what is moral (although conceding some overlap of the two). This, in my view, is mistaken. I claim there is no distinction between what is moral and what is legal.

The law is the only reality, the only objective standard* there is: It is written down, in text, and can be found in books of law. Morality, based on any such objective standard, simply does not exist. There are also such things like laws of social etiquette, but they, like governmental laws, are generally written down. See Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post, for example. (Even "the etiquette of the street" comes close to be a form of "written law".)

Legal is what is written into "law". Moral harkens to that higher, mystical Platonic realm of absolutes, atop Mount Olympus, Mount Sinai, and that mountain top from which Zarathustra down-went.

In short, in this case, Jesus was wrong.

* an objective standard that, obviously, changes over time

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I'm not one o'THEm
(you know, the ones with the 'THE' middle name):

There's John THE Baptist,
Alexander THE Great[ist?],

Joe THE Plumber
(but no Christopher THE Plummer),

Popeye THE Sailor,
Philo THE Elder,

Attila THE Hun
(and even Attila THE Pun),

[ ... ]

Winnie THE Pooh,
and Philo THE Jew.

(Perhaps Philo THE Dialectician*
 is THE best I can do.)

for Totally Optional Prompts: Anaphora (rfp 2009/02/25)


Monday, February 23, 2009

The Geek Poet's Tale [the twelfth fragment]

[continued from the eleventh fragment]

   Having found two poets with minds like his own geeky muse,

   The bus-rider from Blogosphere was to find other views.

I was intrigued with the banter between cryptic Coder

And the priss-Puzzler, when I looked cross the aisle. No colder

A chill had I felt in my travel. Outside the window

I observed the most mysterious thing: the scenic flow

Had changed from — to me — a somewhat familiar venue

To a late medieval one — history, to me — and, too,

A bearded man with black hood, walking with handwritten book.

What time-demon had transported me with devious hook?!

I had to find out. I pulled the stop-chord, left my own time,

And found myself at the genesis of my own slang's rhyme.

[this ends the twelfth fragment*]

*And this ends Part I of The Geek Poet's Tale. -pt

( fragments collected to date — newest fragments first )

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Addison DeWitt

The land that is now the (curious) city of Addison, Texas (officially named "Town of Addison", international headquarters for Mary Kay Cosmetics, and Pizza Hut, home of North Texas Jazz Festival and Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, was first settled around 1850 by Preston Witt. [Wikipedia]

"In 1950, [actor George] Sanders gave his most widely recognised performance, and achieved his greatest success, as the acerbic, cold-blooded theatre critic Addison DeWitt in All About Eve, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor." [Wikipedia]

Note: I have lived in Addison for a little over one year now, and am discovering interesting "facts" about the place. I think the Town of Addison, Preston Witt (Addison's first settler), and the character name "Addison DeWitt" coincidence is just that, a coincidence (and maybe I'm the first to observe this) but I could be wrong I guess. Speaking of "of wit": Addison is also home of Addison Improv comedy club.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

W.H. Auden (February 21, 1907 – September 29, 1973)

Today is Auden's birthday. Although this is a spring-time poem, there's been spring-like weather here in North Texas for most of this month. This is one of my favorites from Selected Poems:

Their Lonely Betters

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

— W.H. Auden June 1950

Perhaps I should spend the day with the book by my side, if not opened in front of me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Project Phil

Punxsutawney Phil

There's a Project Steve*, evolutionists/scientists named "Steve", or "Stephan", or "Stéphane, or "Stevie", or ... who sign-on to the following statement:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.

So there should be — naturally and likewise — a Project Phil. And who else to be our mascot, but the one seen in the photo above. And like the List of Steves, here begins the List of Phils:

1. <pawprint of the current Punxsutawney Phil>
2. <my signature here> [Philip Thrift]
. . .

* inspired by a Philosophers' Playground post

Monday, February 16, 2009

Editor's note: The Geek Poet's Tale

Editor's note: Due to some "technical issues", a twelfth, and what looks to be the final fragment of what looks to be Part I of The Geek Poet's Tale* will be published next Monday.

( *fragments collected to date — newest fragments first )

Sunday, February 15, 2009

G.O.P. — R.I.P.

Ghetto Of Palin
Gospel of Palin
         Redeemer Church
         (of the land of GOG
           Ghost of Gingrich)
Eric: the Cantor
         Every time the Cantor sings,
         a Democrat gets his wings

Snowe, Collins, and Specter:
          The Unholy Trinity
The Expurged:
          Gordon Smith, Lincoln Chafee
Michael: Htrae's Man of Steele

         Ghost of Dewey
Is Dead

*   G.O.P.   *
*               *
*   R.I.P.    *

for (weakly) read write poem prompt #66: re-imagine your life (gypo)

(also see A date which will live in irony)

Saturday, February 14, 2009


In preparation (defragmentation) of The Geek Poet's Tale (the Canterbury-esque tale of a poet from the planet Blogosphere traveling in a non-geek world), I have thought of the authorship of the blogger. A blogger — in his typical mode — is the master of his own blog, acting as diarist, journalist or columnist. But the blogger is not only king of his own blog, he travels to other kingdoms (other blogs) — in some cases, prompted by comments left on his own blog by other bloggers. He then drops his own crumbs around the Blogosphere.

These are, collectively, also the work of the blogger — his Blogcrumbs. (The blogger's Blogcrumbs can be "published" as a link on his blog.) Here is one recipe (terminology here is Firefox based) for maintaining Blogcrumbs (similar to Bookmarks):
  1. Under "Bookmarks", create a new folder named "Blogcrumbs".
  2. For each comment you author (and want "recorded"), bookmark the direct permalink to that specific comment, but with the "Name" some appropriate identifier (e.g. the first few words of the comment), and place in the "Blogcrumbs" folder.
  3. Bookmark the permalink to the post you are commenting on in the "Blogcrumbs" folder, with the prefix "**** " in front of the post title.
  4. When you want to "publish" your Blogcrumbs, "Export" [as HTML] the bookmarks into a file bookmarks.html*
  5. Edit bookmarks.html and extract the Blogcrumbs section of the HTML using an appropriate editor (TextEdit/Mac works fine)
  6. Write result as Blogcrumbs.html
  7. "Publish" Blogcrumbs[date].html as appropriate. (If you wish, put a link on the sidebar of your blog

That's about it for now. I'll play with the recipe and and see if anything tasty results.

* There is no way yet I see to "Export" a single folder of Bookmarks; hence, you have remove the other bookmarks via editing.

1. Blogcrumbs are not the same thing as Trackbacks.
2. It you add another comment to the same blog post, you would see that comment at the end of "Bookmarks > Blogcrumbs", and after the "**** blog post title" following the previously made comment. Here I use "Organize Bookmarks" to move the comment permalink up to its place above the post permalink.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A date which will live in irony

Today is the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln (and also, the 100th anniversary of the NAACP). The first Republican president ended slavery. (His Democratic opponent in 1860, Stephen Douglas, did not believe that blacks could be citizens, and defended the preservation of slavery where it already existed.) The Radical Republicans after Lincoln gave us Reconstruction and the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause. Equal Protection was the basis of the 1954 Supreme Court decision, led by a Republican chief justice, ending legal racial apartheid in America. This led eventually to the race-based Republican "Southern Strategy" to where today (2009) there are no Republican black members of Congress, whereas there are about forty Democratic black members. The first black president is a Democrat, a former Senator from the Land of Lincoln, who took his oath of office on the Bible of Lincoln. (See R[epublicans]. I[n]. P[eace].)

Also: Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. (Yesterday was the 45th birthday of Sarah Palin.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gordon Comstock (ad agency ad)

  photo from Keep the Aspidistra Flying (film adaptation)

Let Gordon Comstock be your best chum
In your quest for that lucrative plum —
     A springle on your shingle,
     A tingle in your jingle:
BUFFETAll You Can Eat ... And Dim Sum!

for Read Write Poem: “relax responsibly” (gypo)

a springle is a springe (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913): 1. A device for snaring small game, made by attaching a noose to a branch under tension. 2. A trap or snare.

Gordon Comstock is the main character of Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying, who left his job as an ad copywriter to pursue his dream of being a poet, but his material needs "forced" him to throw away his poetry in frustration and return to his old "real world" profession. (See also G.C.'s poem)

Gordon Comstock is a fictional ad agency, with headquarters in Addison, Texas.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Geek Poet's Tale [the eleventh fragment]

[continued from the tenth fragment]

   The Geek, who had left Beat, asleep, now traveled on the road

   with the curious two: one of Puzzle, the other, Code ...

The two po's seemed familiars — the playful and the dandy.

Programmer-like one had an old typewritten sheet handy

Whose typographical play I caught sight of, displaying

Words unspun — this, to the poet of conundrum, showing.

He was seeking, so it seemed, some critique from the fey fop.

The logic-bender mused — his hand scratched his feminine mop —

Then let loose a laugh. He was getting the inside joke, while

I, outside, was left craving. But then, I glanced cross the aisle ...

[this ends the eleventh fragment*]

* More to be published, as they are recovered from Blogosphere's backed-up blogs. -pt

( fragments collected to date — newest fragments first )

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sam Adams' Brood

Beau Breedlove talks to CBS

Sam Adams' Brood

You didn't use your noodle
At Macaroni Grill

But — I was just seventeen
(You know what I mean)

And you were forty-two
(What else is new?)

Now you're paying out the till

for Totally Optional Prompts: Aubade (rfp)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Paradise Lost 2.0

The LORD's first words,
Rolling the dice
(Iambic two):
"Let there be flare."
The Man's first words
In Paradise
(Iambic too):
"Let there be flair!"

The Snake's first words
From Knowledge Tree:
"Come eat this fare."
The Man's last words
From Paradise:
"Life isn't fair."

for* read write poem prompt #64: out with the old, poem the new (gypo)

* I feel maxed-out right now on P.O.E. (Post-Obama's-Election) poems (O, a deer, Inauguration 2009, Séance Sonnet)

1. (iambic) dimeter
2. Language in Paradise Lost (by Ruth Rushworth)
In Paradise Lost, we find the following lines which record Adam's first words:
    … to speak I tried, and forthwith spake,
My tongue obeyed and readily could name
What e'er I saw.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Geek Poet's Tale [the tenth fragment]

[continued from the ninth fragment]

   Vying for spot on the bus near the syntax-breaking bard

   The Geek poet crossed the aisle — but then, he was put off-guard ...

I was about to claim seat when that spot was fast taken

By a dandy fey. He cradled, if I'm not mistaken,

A book with childish dust. I seated instead second-best

In the aisle-facing row in front of two, now to my left.

The programmer-poet recognized the puzzle-ing dude,

And they began to converse. I didn't want to be rude,

So I eavesdropped, pretending attention to my iPhone

Instead. Their dialog revealed their particular tone ...

[this ends the tenth fragment*]

* More to be published, as they are recovered from Blogosphere's backed-up blogs. -pt

( fragments collected to date — newest fragments first )

"prompted" by Totally Optional Prompts Repetition (rfp), or — more accurately — by the prompt's reference to The Hunting of the Snark (Lewis Caroll)

Sunday, February 1, 2009


photo by Martin Hart (The American WideScreen Museum)

Nietzsche's Chariot*









*      *      *

One exercise I do every few weeks or so, out of curiosity, is to search Google News and Blogs for the latest posts with words the "deconstructionism" or "postmodernism" (aka "pomo") in them (or related words without the "ism" or with "ist" instead). I'm particularly interested in the "critics", who use these as representative lingo for everything that is wrong with the world.

There seem to be three camps, or teams if you will:
  • Alpha — the far right Christian and conservative groups, who use these terms (especially the latter) as labels for "the media/academia class" who do not believe in the "authority" of Scripture, i.e. "absolute" truth
  • Beta — those of the the secular left (and right, a la Andrew Sullivan) who ignorantly push the idea that practitioners of these enterprises are just New-Age unscientific bozos (who don't believe in the "authority" of science)
  • Gamma — deconstructionists and postmodernists and their fans
Now I have some books on both these subjects, and while I would pretty be confident saying I was a "deconstructionist" and have some confidence in its specificity, I frankly don't know what a "postmodernist" is, except as being some sort of superclass of deconstructist. Supposedly a deconstructionist architect, for example, would design building where the inside/outside distinction is blurred. (On another note, Derrida apparently didn't like adding "ism" to the name of whatever he was doing — Maybe an "ism" is just more intellectual jism.)

If I were to present deconstruction on a single slide, it would bullet its two targets (both considered to be be "artificial" constructions that have led humankind astray):
  • binary oppositions
  • double standards
and I would cite as examples two sources, respectively, who are not generally considered to be part of the pomo pantheon:
  • W.V. Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" [DiText] — where the belief that some statements are "analytic" and others are "synthetic" is deconstructed
  • Huw Price, Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point [Google Books] — where the belief that there is an "arrow of time" (that belief being an anthropocentric confusion due to a statistical thermodynamic "arrow") has led to thinking there are such things as quantum "paradoxes"

So one does not have to go to some fuzzy Frenchies to find their culprits — one can start here.

There is a third deconstructionist concept:

double reading — any text can be (is) re-read in ways that can deconstruct its naive meaning. Every text contains the seeds of its own deconstruction.

Il n'y a pas de hors-texte.

Go Gammas!

2009/02/18 — "posted" to Totally Optional Prompts: Request for Poems: Coin a New Word

*The poem originally appeared in this blog January 6, 2009 as The Four Deconstructionists. Originally, I was thinking the "Decon Four" as like the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", but I knew Nietzsche was missing. So here he is, the driver — of course — of the four-horse chariot.

(Nietzsche has his own "horse-tale" to be told: On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a collapse which seems to have triggered a psychotic break. Two policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown, but the often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around the horse’s neck to protect it, and collapsed to the ground. [Wikipedia]