Category Archives: Language

Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy Were Probably Totally Illiterate

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Though there are hundreds of Star Wars books and comics, somebody might have a hard time finding anyone in the Galaxy writing or reading one themselves. This would explain why everything is done via droids and holograms, libraries are made up of ‘holocrons’, and why the political reality of the Jedi become mythical legends in a single generation. As Ryan Britt of Tor.com points out, with the exception of the Jedi and some Imperial officers, it doesn’t seem like those denizens Far, Far Away have any interest in the written word. And even those that do don’t seem ready to follow on ‘some damn fool idealistic crusade’ for literacy.

Via Tor.com:

Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. If something is read by someone in Star Wars, it’s almost certainly off of a screen (and even then, maybe being translated by a droid), and it’s definitely not for entertainment purposes. As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we’re introduced to ancient Jedi “texts” called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings. Just how long has the Star Wars universe been reliant on fancy technology to transfer information as opposed to the written word? Is it possible that a good number of people in Star Wars are completely illiterate?

If you simply stick to the Star Wars films, there is no news media of any kind. Despite the fact that we see cameras circling around Queen/Senator Amidala in the Senate, they don’t seem to be actually feeding this information anywhere. Are they security cameras, like the ones that recorded Anakin killing little tiny Jedi kiddies? This theory achieves a little more weight when you consider that the conversation in The Phantom Menace Senate scene is all about how Queen Amidala can’t verify the existence of a coming invasion. She’s got no pictures, and stranger still, no reputable news source has even written about the blockade of Naboo. Even if we put forth that cameras in Star Wars are only for security and not for news, that still leaves the question of why there are no journalists. A possible answer: it’s because most people don’t read, which means that over time most people in this universe don’t ever learn to read.

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10 Cliches That Try to Take the Place of Legitimate Argument

We’re all guilty of it, whether in our daily conversations, debates or blog posts. Analogy and illustration serve to simplify our understanding and answers to life’s complex conundrums. Sometimes, however, these over-used aphorisms over-simplify to the point of absurdity. It may even amount to pseudo-intellectual name-dropping, hoping to fool your audience into thinking that because you know who George Santayana was, that being in such good company means your reasoning must be thoroughly sound!

They may have a legitimate point, they may even be saying something you agree with, but “a broken clock is still right twice a day,” and fallacious logic can still coincidentally lead to a correct conclusion.

1. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

Which is why he stopped trying to comb his hair after a while.

But how else would mutation and evolution have happened, innovation and invention, or the replication of experiments, the very foundation of falsifiability and the cornerstone of scientific discovery?

Actually, I prefer to think that Einstein wasn’t really talking shit on replication, but merely accurately describing that most everything that happens in the cosmos is insane. If you have some stupid theory of everything but your experiments can’t prove your pseudoscience, you’re not wrong to keep trying. Just insane.

People have used his phrase in political arguments, critiques of opponents, constructive criticism of peers, matronly advice, and internet comment sections, all hoping to wow one another with their undeniable wisdom.

When this fails to happen, they do it again and again.

This may be because, as we know, there are no original ideas.

2. “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

-T. S. Eliot

And immature artists sue you for stealing

It’s not that I agree or disagree with any of these clichés (although some are undoubtedly ridiculous, as we shall soon see), it’s just that many of them are offered up instead of saying anything valuable at all. Of course creative people steal from their influences, we are all the product of our experiences!

Plagiarism is an even thornier-than-usual issue these days, however, so you had better be careful what you use this old quote to justify!

But I don’t think it’s fair to say that there is no original content. And not everything has to be mash-up or a modernization or a cover or a sequel or a gritty revisioning. Nobody like Ramses II existed before Ramses II (not even Ramses I). And the aforementioned Einstein was obviously thinking on another cosmic plane! To say nothing of Edison, Newton, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Archimedes… okay, now I’m just name-dropping! And certainly each of them drew on the accumulated knowledge of the great minds that came before, but that’s not really saying anything more than the obvious. We need these mutants to inject genuinely fresh and new ideas because, after all, the rest of us are so stupid.

3. We only use 10% of our brains.

In some cases this is true.

In addition to being on this list for overused phrases, you’ll also find it listed in collections of commonly cited phrases that aren’t even true. Those in the pseudosciences and radio arts often hold Einstein as an example of a God-king who could somehow magically harness 20% of his brain power, with the rest of us catatonically drooling down our fronts with glazed eyes. Many misattribute the quote itself to Einstein, or imply that special training (expensive books and tape) can “unlock” the remaining percentile, or even that impressive psychic powers or a sixth sense reside in the bulk of our unused gray matter.

Although many mysteries regarding brain function remain, every part of the brain has a known function.

According to wikipedia, it may have been early neuroscientists who used the 10% figure when referring to the proportion of neurons in the brain that fire at any given time or to the percentage of the brain’s functions that had been mapped at the time (accounts differ).

No matter, this commonly held misconception has proliferated through our pop culture, and is claimed by paranormal believers so much that one cannot help but wonder if they just want it to be true because it applies more readily in their case. Luckily, for about as many people who use this trite falsehood, there seems to be just as many ready to counter and ridicule it.

4. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

– George Santayana

Which is why they'll be remaking this movie soon.

I’m not a big believer that history repeats itself in any verifiable or scientifically useful way. That being said, similarities can be found between any two time periods, or probably, between any two things one cares to draw comparisons or confirmation-biases with.

And just what are the parameters? Are my neighbor and I doomed to repeat the events of the Peloponnesian War? If I suddenly forget the Nineties will I wake up one morning with a mullet?

I guess I’m mostly annoyed by the politician’s usage of this gem. When describing the economic collapse of recent memory, it could behoove one side or the other to compare either to the policies that led to the Great Depression, or to the recovery policies that dug us back out.

Invariably, someone uses a shade of this quote to wreak their foul Godwin’s Law, implying that because we are not diligent against the current administration (or whatever), that they must be Nazis readying for a blitz.

But Nazis were all about history! They had a storied passion for their firm place in history, for better or worse, and deliberately chose which facets to glamorize and which to destroy. There was very little unintentional lapse of memory at work.

Ironically, today nazis are often treated as a sinister joke, the sheer ridiculousness itself guarding against tyranny in that very specific form

5. “First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Martin Niemöller

This seems a very reasonable statement of our human nature to ignore problems until they are at our doorstep, or how we willingly bow to authority, no matter how triumphantly evil. Zimbardo or Millgram in action.

Call it survivor’s guilt, guilt by association, criminal negligence… no matter what it’s called, it’s still just a slippery slope argument. Granted, when cases of genocide are concerned, it’s best to err on the side of not imprisoning and slaughtering millions, but I would still be remiss not to point out that logical fallacy.

And even still, assuming Martin’s speaking for everyone in Reichland to make his point more valid (or at least assuming that the decades of quoters do), then each person up the chain would have also been a varying degree of guilty. There was no one left to speak out for you, because no one was speaking out for anyone, any time, anywhere, anyway.

Another similar (and just as overused) quote is Edmund Burke’s “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” 

No… I mean… evil sort of had the most to do with it… call it 80/20

6. “God does not play dice with the universe.”

-Albert Einstein

Unless this is a tabletop RPG. In which case, God uses many dice.

Einstein’s been proven wrong on many things in the years since his death, as he was just a man, and a product of his time. But this quote should be understood in his context and time, with the understanding that  Neitzsche proclaimed God dead, and that Spinoza proclaimed God to be a sort of pantheistic representation of all being. Similar to Dawkins or Hawking’s assertion of the non-necessity of a God, a reasonable and scientifically literate individual does not need a God to play dice with the universe, but admitting its  irrelevance to science does not render moot the possibility of a personal, non-interventionist deity.

Moreover, religion has nothing to do with it, so people who use this quote to claim that even the infallible Einstein was a believer are missing his point. Einstein was referring to the (then) burgeoning theory and study of quantum mechanics, which in the decades since his death have had numerous verifications and observable interactions with established physics. In fact, the very early precursors to the field are thanks to Einstein himself.

And really, what kind of scientific method would it be if it all just stopped after Einstein? Just because he said or did or thought or believed something, doesn’t mean we all have to!

7. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too?

Hey, man, go with the flow.

Some version of this argument can be heard by desperate debaters and scolding mothers worldwide, and implies that following the herd will bring us to a nasty end. But really, it all depends… Is there a bungie cord? Is the bridge taller than 4ft? Is the goal itself to commit suicide? Am I going to be the very best at it? Has the pile of bodies gotten tall enough to comfortably break my fall?

With its equally clichéd antithesis, “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong”, the appeal to popularity or appeal against popularity really tells us nothing about the original argument, or the wisdom in group-thinking. People who follow the “herd” have a “sheep” or “lemming” mentality. And yet, 4 out of 5 experts agree, everyone else is doing it, and you do want to be popular, don’t you?

We need individual thinkers to point out that the Earth is round and goes around the sun, but we also need group cooperation to build roads, operate government, form protests, fight wars, make the trains run on time and populate Coachella.

These fallacious nuggets appear everywhere, but just because everyone else uses them, doesn’t mean you will. Right?

8. “Won’t somebody please think of the children!?”

-Helen Lovejoy

After epochs of stuffiness and reactionary noisemaking by parental associations and nosy church busybodies, imagine how much slower our society must have progressed due to whatever scary monster-of-the-week was lodged in their collective craws.

We basically ended up with violent Prohibition in the U.S. because of ‘The Boogeyman’, and this ‘reasoning’ still wreaks havoc in our schools, on our televisions, and in our libraries. All sorts of censorship have been implemented to protect our defenseless children, from comic books, video gamesplastic-propelling toyssex in music and the cartoons in cigarette advertising. More accurately, censorship is put in place so that one group of vocal zealots can get their way, or to disenfranchise another group, or to help facilitate half-assed under-parenting.

The entirety of Jenny McCarthy’s insane and factually-vacant crusade against vaccination can be summed up as ‘for the sake of the children.’ You know what the children really need? Intellectual discourse and critical thinking to engineer a better world for them to grow up in. I know, it sounds batty.

At the same time, the really cool, really old people remind us how easy kids today have it. How back in their day, they only had a jagged shard of metal to play with, or how they used to have to work in a factory for seventeen hours a day for pennies, or how they used to be afraid of things like… y’know… polio.

Come to think of it, back in my day, we had playgrounds made of concrete and steel. Kids have it so easy.

9. “Greed is good”

               -Gordon Gecko

For all your conniving and success, you still couldn't avoid LeBeouf.

For all your conniving and success, you still couldn't avoid LeBeouf.

Especially true in this era of class warfare, where the top blah-blah-blah-percent blah-blah-blah against the bottom blah-blah-blah-percent! We hear this from the right-wing media, the corporate elites, and their bought legislators. It’s the defining principle at work in ‘Trickle-Down Economics’, deregulation, free market principles, and Citizen’s United.

I could write multiple separate essays on all that Ayn Rand nonsense (and I have), but mostly I just hate it when cautionary tales are taken out of context, idolized and seen as divine inspiration. How soon we forget how things ended for Gordon Gecko, or Tony Montana, or Don Corleone, as instead we are bedazzled by the short-lived success and glory. Unfortunately, things do not turn out as bad for the baddies in real life, who seem to rarely see their downfall from massive hubris. It’s nefarious, it’s ignorant, and it’s bitter irony.

Which serves as a reminder that the original cautionary tale was Satan’s.

10. Those who choose not to vote shouldn’t be allowed to complain.

Good enough reason for anyone to complain.

Or any other fascistic (though perhaps well-meaning) platitudes of intellectual treacle. If somebody exercises their freedom of speech and vote by abstaining, then that’s a perfectly reasonable choice. As if a dictatorship or some other undesirable federal form of government would affect non-voters differently than voters! In fact, it’s the political ideologues and loud patriots who would hear the boots marching first, not the apathetic whiners.

Why is it that if someone chooses not to perform one constitutionally granted right, they should be stripped of an entirely different enumerated one? Just how well would the following fly with these freedom-flinging pro-voting bigots?
  • Those who choose not to practice freedom of religion should have troops quartered in their home.
  • Those who choose not to assemble shouldn’t allowed to bear arms.
  • Those who skip jury duty shouldn’t petition their government.

Okay, well maybe that last one is a bit hypocritical, but still…

Of course, the abstainers will still have to listen to the clichéd proselytizers, because they’re just exercising their First Amendment Rights, after all.

BONUS: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes!”

-Benjamin Franklin

This one only annoys me because people like to quote it and then add their own third thing, completely missing the entire point. ‘And taxes’ is the punch line, implying that they are as detrimental and damning as death itself, when clearly they’re just a damned nuisance. To add your own third option, whether to make a point or attempt to be humorous, underplays the quote. Quit it. I’m sick of hearing it.

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Reading List

Some of my top favorite authors and titles as per my Good Reads profile.
My tumblr follows the publishing industry, retail books, the e-book revolution, libraries and other bibliographical, bookish-type things at Likely In Store!

By Genre

Classics & Fiction
Things Fall ApartThe Canterbury TalesParadise LostSilas MarnerWhite NoiseHeart of DarknessThe Picture of Dorian GrayInvisible ManUp the Down StaircaseA Clockwork OrangeThe New York TrilogyThe Sadness of SexFuck MachineA Modest ProposalIt Can't Happen HereFlowers for AlgernonTo Kill a MockingbirdThe Catcher in the RyeThe Great GatsbyAnimal FarmOf Mice and MenThe Grapes of WrathCannery RowTravels with Charley: In Search of AmericaMe Talk Pretty One DayLord of the FliesLittle WomenA Tale of Two CitiesThe Count of Monte CristoMoby-DickMemoirs of a GeishaMiddlesexLolitaGone With the Wind1984Veronika Decides to DieAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-GlassAnd the Hippos Were Boiled in Their TanksBeowulf: A New Verse TranslationBig SurOn the RoadThe Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other StoriesCandide: or, OptimismThe Brothers KaramazovDemonsThe Old Man and the SeaThe Sun Also RisesTo Have and Have NotA Hunger ArtistIn The Penal ColonyThe MetamorphosisThe TrialR. Crumb's KafkaThe Cheese MonkeysOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestThe ChosenThe Tevye Stories and OthersAdventures of Mottel: The Cantor's SonA Christmas CarolOliver TwistThe Divine ComedyDoctor FaustusThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeTreasure IslandNaked LunchLove is a Dog from HellHam on RyeThe Most Beautiful Woman in TownHot Water MusicThe StrangerThe Satanic VersesPortnoy’s ComplaintAtlas ShruggedChokeDiaryRantLullabyFight ClubCatch-22FaustLife of Pi
Poetry
Budget Travel through Space and Time: PoemsThe Collected Poems, Complete and UnabridgedPoetry as Insurgent ArtA Coney Island of the MindHowl and Other PoemsSongs of Innocence and of ExperienceThe Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other PoemsMeditations in an EmergencyLord Byron: The Major Works
Drama
Les MisérablesThe Diary of a Madman, The Government Inspector, and Selected StoriesOedipus RexArsenic And Old LaceThe Odd CoupleRosencrantz and Guildenstern are DeadThe CrucibleDeath of a SalesmanFocusThe Portable Arthur MillerThe Oedipus Cycle: Oedipus Rex / Oedipus at Colonus / AntigoneHamletA Midsummer Night's DreamMacbethThe TempestOthelloRomeo and JulietShakespeare's SonnetsThe Taming of the Shrew
Mythology
Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round TableArthurian LegendsKappa; A NovelThe Saga of the VolsungsThe Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One NightsEgyptian Ideas of the AfterlifeAncient Egyptian MagicSir Gawain and the Green KnightAesop's FablesThe Hero With a Thousand FacesBeowulf: A New Verse Translation
Paranormal
The Coincidence File: Synchronicity, Morphic Resonance or Pure Chance?The Young Oxford Book of AliensFaces of the VisitorsThe Mothman PropheciesCasebook on the Men in BlackThe Lost Continent of MuCommunion: A True StoryThe Celestine Prophecy50 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time: History's Biggest Mysteries, Coverups, and Cabals
Science
CosmosBonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and SexElephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre ExperimentsThe Golden Section: Nature's Greatest SecretThe Man Who Tasted ShapesI Live in the Future & Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work & Brain Are Being Creatively DisruptedThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat & Other Clinical TalesFlatland: A Romance of Many DimensionsThe Man Who Tasted ShapesWhat We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of CertaintyWhat Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today's Leading Thinkers on the UnthinkableWhat Are You Optimistic About?: Today's Leading Thinkers on Why Things Are Good and Getting BetterWhat Have You Changed Your Mind About?: Today's Leading Minds Rethink EverythingTricks of the Mind
Business
Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and RealityHey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great AdsThe Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing CapitalismThe 48 Laws of Power
History
The Iliad & The OdysseyThe IliadThe OdysseyI, ClaudiusNazi GermanyWhat a Way to Go: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to DeathGuns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human SocietiesA Little History of the WorldOne Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear WarThe War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-08Lincoln's DevotionalLies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got WrongCrossfire: The Plot That Killed KennedyBenjamin Franklin: Wit and WisdomNightThe Diary of a Young GirlNickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in AmericaThe Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian SuperpowerA People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the WestYou Can't WinThe Prince
Philosophy
A Little Book of LanguageA Little History of PhilosophyMeditationsGod's Debris: A Thought ExperimentUniverse and EyeCommon SenseThe Communist ManifestoThis Is Not a PipeAstonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday LifeDo You Think What You Think You Think?The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair PhilosopherComing of Age at the End of HistoryThe Society of the SpectacleOn BullshitGödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden BraidThe Five People You Meet in HeavenAristotle and an Aardvark Go to WashingtonPlato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through JokesZeno and the Tortoise: How to Think Like a PhilosopherWays of SeeingLateral ThinkingDo You Think What You Think You Think?Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?The Michael Eric Dyson ReaderBullshit and PhilosophyTwilight of the Idols/The Anti-Christ
Media Theory
Extra Lives: Why Video Games MatterThe Medium Is the MassageArt & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of ArtmakingMad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s AmericaHow to Watch TV News: Revised EditionDon't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives50 Things You're Not Supposed to KnowImpro101 Things to Learn in Art School
Humour
The Devil's DictionaryThe Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus; All the Words Volume OneNapalm & Silly PuttyBrain DroppingsLies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair & Balanced Look at the RightThe Illustrated ManStuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of MillionsWhere's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never ArrivedHow To Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming RebellionHow to Be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!!I Am AmericaCurb Your Enthusiasm: The BookThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme EditionThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and SexThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: TravelThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival HandbookHeaven and Hell: A Compulsively Readable Compendium of Myth, Legend, Wisdom, and Wit for Saints and SinnersOur Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet EarthOur Dumb Century: The Onion Presents 100 Years of Headlines from America's Finest News SourceI'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have YouThe Dilbert Future: Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st CenturyThe Joy of Work: Dilbert's Guide to Finding Happiness at the Expense of Your Co-WorkersThe Dilbert Principle: A Cubicle's-Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace AfflictionsGreat Comedians Talk about ComedyHow to Rule the World: A Handbook for the Aspiring DictatorThe Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx
Horror
At the Mountains of MadnessThe Complete WorksFrankensteinThe ShiningThree Ghost StoriesWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarThe Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living DeadRudyard Kipling's Tales of Horror and Fantasy
Don QuixoteThe Confidence-Man
Crime
Homicide: A Year on the Killing StreetsThree Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the InnocentThe Maltese FalconThe Big SleepThe GodfatherThe Complete Sherlock HolmesDetection by GaslightThe Big Sleep & Farewell, My LovelyThe Murder of Roger AckroydAnd Then There Were NoneThe SicilianOmertaThe Thin Man
Science Fiction
The Challenge Of The SpaceshipTimelineJurassic ParkThe Lost WorldPrey2001: A Space OdysseyR Is for RocketThe Martian ChroniclesA Sound of Thunder and Other StoriesThe VeldtVenus on the Half-ShellMore Stories from the Twilight ZoneStories from the Twilight ZoneBrave New WorldFahrenheit 451The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Time MachineStar Wars: A New HopeThe Lost WorldThe HobbitEnder's GameDuneStranger in a Strange LandParis in the Twentieth CenturyThe First Men in the MoonNeuromancerSnow CrashThe Island of Dr. MoreauWhen the Sleeper WakesThe Country of the Blind and Other Science-Fiction StoriesThe Best Time Travel Stories of All TimeFrom the Earth to the MoonJourney to the Center of the EarthThe Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th CenturyBrave New World/Brave New World RevisitedStarship TroopersMona Lisa Overdrive (Sprawl, #3)Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Children’s
Mr. Popper's PenguinsWatership DownBunniculaThe Complete Grimm's Fairy TalesMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHThe Indian in the CupboardFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. FrankweilerA Wrinkle in TimeA Wind in the DoorRikki-Tikki-TaviJust So StoriesThe Jungle BooksThe Princess BrideOne Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue FishHorton Hears a Who!The LoraxGreen Eggs and HamThe Sneetches and Other StoriesFox in SocksOh, the Places You'll Go!The Cat in the HatThe Butter Battle BookThe Cat in the Hat Comes BackHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!I am Not Going to Get Up Today!Where the Sidewalk EndsThe Giving TreeThe Little PrinceThe Polar ExpressSix MenStrega NonaWhere the Wild Things AreThe Night Before Christmas
Art
Mad Men: The Illustrated WorldThe Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be The Artist You Truly AreGnomesThe Complete GnomesThe Magic Mirror of M.C. EscherThe Graphic WorkH.R. Giger's NecronomiconDynamic Figure DrawingEx Libris: The Art of BookplatesThe Small Stakes: Music PostersThe Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese InventionsBanksy Locations & Tours Volume 2: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs from around the UKBanksy Locations & Tours: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs in London, EnglandWall and PieceStreet Art San Francisco: Mission MuralismoGraffiti World: Street Art from Five Continentsi am 8-bit: Art Inspired by Classic Videogames of the '80sThe Art BookThe Cult of LEGOCartooning: Philosophy and PracticeWreck This JournalThe Book of TikiInfinite City: A San Francisco AtlasMid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men EraUnpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books
Graphic Novels
Rex Libris, Volume I: I, LibrarianHandmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly Home DesignScud: The Disposable Assassin -The Whole ShebangThe Sixth Gun, Vol. 1: Cold Dead FingersThe Perry Bible Fellowship AlmanackThe Walking Dead, Book OneCats are Weird and More ObservationsI Kill GiantsInvincible, Volume 1: Family MattersJack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 1Action Philosophers Giant-Size Thing Vol. 1Persepolis: The Story of a ChildhoodThe Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse SuiteSweet Tooth, Vol. 1: Out of the Deep WoodsDaredevil Legends, Vol. 1: YellowThe Sandman: King of DreamsFrank, Vol. 1The Complete Far Side, 1980-1994Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 1: The RoninDarth Vader and SonKick-AssAmerican Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey PekarDr. Horrible and Other Horrible StoriesTransmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the StreetChew, Vol. 1: Taster's ChoiceEverything Can Be BeatenBatman: The Long HalloweenWiener Dog ArtThe Far Side GalleryChris WareHow to Draw Comics the Marvel WayEverything is Its Own Reward: An All Over Coffee CollectionAll Over CoffeePaula Scher: MAPSKirby: King of ComicsY: The Last Man, Vol. 1: UnmannedThe Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other StoriesThe Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy TalesPinocchioThe Complete Calvin and HobbesThe Complete MausMaus, Vol. 2: And Here My Troubles BeganRamayana: Divine LoopholeEssential Doctor Strange, Vol. 1Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 3Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1The Art of Steve DitkoStrange and Stranger: The World of Steve DitkoNew GodsSavage Dragon Archives, Vol. 1Mouse Guard: Roleplaying GameMouse Guard: Winter 1152Mouse Guard: Fall 1152Moomin Book Five: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic StripMoomin Book Four: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic StripMoomin Book Three: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic StripMoomin Book Two: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic StripMoomin Book One: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic StripTintin in the Land of the SovietsCigars of the PharaohTintin in TibetThe Complete ConcreteDiesel Sweeties: Pocket Sweeties Volume 1A Zits Treasury 02: Big Honkin' ZitsEditorial WorksLittle Nemo: 1905-1914Zippy: Walk a Mile in My Muu-Muu (ZippyZippy StoriesAre We Having Fun YetHow To Go To HellAkbar and Jeff's Guide to LifeWork Is HellChildhood Is HellThe Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite FamilyBart Simpson's Guide to Life: A Wee Handbook for the PerplexedSimpsons World - The Ultimate Episode GuideThe Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of HomerSchool is HellThe Big Book of Hell: The Best of Life in HellThe AlcoholicScott Pilgrim's Precious Little LifeScott Pilgrim Vs. the WorldScott Pilgrim & the Infinite SadnessScott Pilgrim Gets It TogetherScott Pilgrim Vs. the UniverseScott Pilgrim's Finest HourUncle SamDrawing Words and Writing PicturesSilver Surfer: ParableThe Halo Graphic NovelZot!: The Complete Black-and-White Collection: 1987-1991Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic NovelsUnderstanding Comics: The Invisible ArtReinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art FormRed Meat GoldThe Goon, Volume 8: Those That Is DamnedThe Goon, Volume 9: Calamity of ConscienceThe Goon, Volume 7: A Place of Heartache and GriefThe Goon, Volume 6: Chinatown and The Mystery of Mr. WickerThe Goon, Volume 4: Virtue and the Grim Consequences ThereofThe Goon: NoirThe Goon, Volume 5: Wicked InclinationsThe Goon, Volume 3: Heaps of RuinationThe Goon, Volume 2: My Murderous ChildhoodThe Goon, Volume 1: Nothin' but MiseryThe Collected Sam and MaxThe Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear the HuntersThe Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to SufferThe Walking Dead, Vol. 3: Safety Behind BarsThe Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind UsThe Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone ByeSin City, Vol. 7: Hell and BackSin City, Vol. 6: Booze, Broads, and BulletsSin City, Vol. 5: Family ValuesBatman: The Dark Knight Strikes AgainSin City, Vol. 4: That Yellow BastardSin City, Vol. 3: The Big Fat KillSin City, Vol. 2: A Dame to Kill For300Sin City, Vol. 1: The Hard GoodbyeBatman: The Dark Knight ReturnsBatman: Year OneElektra Lives Again Beanworld, Vol. 1: Wahoolazuma!Beanworld, Vol. 2: A Gift Comes!Arkham Asylum: MadnessWolverine Legends Vol. 1: Wolverine/HulkThe Maxx, Vol. 3The Maxx, Vol. 2The Maxx, Vol. 1Empowered, Volume 1Empowered, Volume 2Empowered, Volume 3Empowered, Volume 4Empowered, Volume 5Bigfoot: I Not DeadIn Me Own Words: The Autobiography of BigfootBoneCagesThe Fate of the ArtistThe Big Book of the UnexplainedThe Big Book of ConspiraciesThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black DossierSwamp Thing, Vol. 1: Saga of the Swamp ThingThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2From HellThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1Batman: The Killing JokeV for VendettaWatchmenThe Amazing Screw-on Head and Other Curious ObjectsDoctor Strange, Doctor Doom: Triumph and TormentHellboy, Vol. 10: The Crooked Man and OthersHellboy, Vol. 9: The Wild HuntHellboy: Odd JobsHellboy, Vol. 8: Darkness CallsHellboy, Vol. 7: The Troll Witch and OthersHellboy, Vol. 6: Strange PlacesHellboy, Vol. 5: Conqueror WormHellboy, Vol. 4: The Right Hand of DoomHellboy, Vol. 3: The Chained Coffin and OthersHellboy, Vol. 2: Wake the DevilHellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of DestructionDonald DuckPogoTales from Outer SuburbiaThe ArrivalMirrorMaskThe Sandman: Book of DreamsThe Day I Swapped My Dad for Two GoldfishThe Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly OnesThe Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream CountryThe Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's HouseThe Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and NocturnesMarvel 1602MarvelsThe Cartoon History of the Universe III: From the Rise of Arabia to the RenaissanceCartoon History of the Universe II, Vol. 8-13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of RomeCartoon History of the Universe I, Vol. 1-7: From the Big Bang to Alexander the GreatBat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in JapanBeasts! 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Favorite Authors

Douglas Adams
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxySo Long, and Thanks for All the FishLife, the Universe, and EverythingThe Restaurant at the End of the UniverseMostly Harmless
Isaac Asimov
The End of EternityDavid Starr, Space RangerThe Foundation TrilogyFoundation and EmpireFoundationSecond FoundationMort
Philip K. Dick
UbikDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?The Man in the High CastleA Scanner DarklyThe Collected Stories, Vol. 4: The Minority ReportThe Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick 2: We Can Remember it for You WholesaleThe Minority ReportThe Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick 1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown OxfordPaycheck and Other Classic StoriesThe Shifting Realities of Philip K. DickThe Philip K. Dick Reader
Hunter S. Thompson
Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. ThompsonThe Gonzo Tapes: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. ThompsonGonzoGonzo: The ArtFear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American DreamThe Joke's OverHell's AngelsThe Rum DiaryBetter Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie
Kurt Vonnegut
Breakfast of ChampionsCat’s CradleWelcome to the Monkey HouseGalápagosThe Sirens of TitanMother NightGod Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: A NovelA Man Without a CountryPlayer PianoTimequakeDeadeye Dick: A NovelBluebeardBagombo Snuff BoxGod Bless You, Dr. KevorkianWampeters, Foma and GranfalloonsArmageddon in RetrospectLook at the Birdie: Unpublished Short FictionSlaughterhouse-Five
Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom SawyerA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's CourtThe Prince and the PauperThe Complete Short Stories of Mark TwainPudd'nhead WilsonThe Diary of Adam and EveLife on the MississippiThe Bible According to Mark TwainThe Mysterious StrangerThe Wit and Wisdom of Mark TwainMark Twain Tonight!Mark Twain's San FranciscoThe Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other SketchesThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

In-credible

Nobody I know refers to my exploits and stories as incredible, but if they did, I would know that they would mean, as opposed to not really being that credible or credible-sounding. We now accept that ‘incredible’ is just so incredible that it has to be credible!

Doctors and patients refer to pain as incredible, adventurers refer to incredible feats of derring-do and strength and bravery, C-3P0 refers to incredible odds. and the president tells us that the challenges are incredible, but not impossible or insurmountable. That is, perhaps we shouldn’t believe him, but we should. At least the droid, (C3P0, not Barack Obama), may have still been using the word correctly.

The Hulk is Incredible, and we all certainly believe in him.

in·cred·i·ble/inˈkredəbəl/ adj.

  1. Impossible to believe: “an incredible tale of triumph”.
  2. Difficult to believe; extraordinary: “the noise was incredible”

I’m all for defining words as they are held in common usage and, more importantly, practical understanding. If you demand that hard definitions of words must stand, then reach down deep within your twisted panty line, and using your thumb and forefinger, deftly grasp the embedded nub and slide the rigid stick from your bowels. But when confusion arises, even for pedantic bloggers, there may be a problem.

In the first example, I stated that my acquaintances never refer to my exploits as incredible, but not because they aren’t. In fact, my stories and feats have no credibility at all. And often on a scale that makes them and me, incredibly incredible. Instead, my friends never lend me any credence, so incredulous are they.

Oh, it is to laugh.

Ontologue

Philosophy so often talks about the things that exist in our real world as instead things that do not exist so much in our real world, replaced by ideal concepts in easy chewable tablet form.

Concepts of things that do not exist (or do not exist as they exist) drive our imagination, fiction, sexual fantasy, ingenuity to create new concepts in science and technology for tomorrow, attempts to build a better society for future generations, art, religion, and language. Abstract concepts allow us to define the universe, our sense of self and everything else in it. We have mental images for things like time, space, atoms, genes, and light, though how science has described them differs greatly.

More specific to philosophy, however, is the idea that we can and should conceptualize all the things in existence as more than meets the eye. It is possible, after all, that our senses lie to us, that nothing really exists as we think it does, or even at all. In Plato’s ideal world, each and every thing was represented on some other ethereal plane of pure concept. Imagine, a (possibly physical) plane of the exact mental image of perfect grass, a gigantic endless ocean of pure water, a room full of ideal chairs, a dog that describes all dogs, metal, stone, marble… Literally all unattainable, but clearly somewhere there in the back of your mind, their existence is implicated heavily.

Plato himself did not think that anyone, not even the enlightened autocratic kings (who never mistype nothing), was capable of ever viewing this world. Where are the objective non-objects? Never mind all that. They’re there. Stop questioning your betters.

Various iterations of conceptually perfect existence involving an intelligent God, as in Leibnitz’ surmising led to the best-of-all-possible worlds, attempted to bridge the gap between the classical Greek aether and our own crass reality.

The argument is often made that everything exists (or exists as it does, or exists in its ideal state) simply because God said so. We can therefore surmise the existence of God (which is the same as God existing as He does, in his ideal state), they claim. Critical thinkers among us are quick to point out that this is not only circular logic, but narcissistic thinking. We are not fine-tuned, we live as one example in a set with an unknown quantity (at least containing ourselves), with an existocentric view outward, not knowing how many Big Bangs failed, how often matter failed to cohere, how many times life did not arise. Science may now be supporting the multiple dimension model, which opens up wholly new and even more ridiculous speculation on the nature of reality and existence. We are just lucky, in the same way that first-world attractive wealthy white kids are, to have shared the formality of “happening to exist.” As I have often said, reality exists because it has to; if it didn’t, then it wouldn’t, and I think I could tell a difference.

Because then there’s Alex Meinong, who stated that existence is merely a property of things that so exist.

The theory is based around the purported empirical observation that it is possible to think about something, such as a golden mountain, even though that object does not exist. Since we can refer to such things, they must have some sort of being. Meinong thus distinguishes the “being” of a thing, in virtue of which it may be an object of thought, from a thing’s “existence”, which is the substantive ontological status ascribed, for example, to horses but denied to unicorns. Meinong called such nonexistent objects “homeless”;[1] others have nicknamed their place of residence “Meinong’s jungle” because of their great number and exotic nature.

Types of obects, according to Meinong, included the following, with even further categorization down the line:

  • Existence (Existenz, verb: existieren), or actual reality (Wirklichkeit), which denotes the material and temporal being of an object
  • Subsistence (Bestand, verb: bestehen), which denotes the being of an object in a non-temporal sense, includes concepts like love and irony, numbers and theorems.
  • Absistence or Being-given (Gegebenheit, as in the German use es gibt, i.e. “there are”, “it is given”), which denotes being an object but not having being, such as square circles, or iron that is made of wood.

Further confused thus by the unnecessary philosophical categorization of things, we are only now starting to determine what is a thing-in-itself, and what is a thing-not-in-itself.

Immanuel Kant (as in, Kant understand it), posited the ‘existence’ of the noumenon, the thing that exists in your mind before the senses, and the thing-in-itself (ding an sich), which may or may not be synonymous, depending on your perspective. Like with Plato, these are unknowable, but must exist, otherwise we would be faced with appearances without anything actually bothering to appear. A lot of this requires intuition, effectively reducing that hypothesis to rubbish during morning meditation. This may lead to limits on knowing, with inner unknowable senses explaining parts or whole of the phenomenal world.

Certain semantic definitions or unnecessary categories of things lead to things not-being-in-themselves, while being synonymous with the thing nonetheless. Good examples of this arise with synecdoche, a figure of speechin which a term is used in one of the following ways:

  • Part of something is used to refer to the whole thing (pars pro toto), such as farm hands, a set of wheels, those long-hairs, or Great Britain, or the States
  • A thing (a “whole”) is used to refer to part of it (totum pro parte), such as the United Kingdom referring to England.
  • A specific class of thing is used to refer to a larger, more general class, like the good book, or one who is good people.
  • A general class of thing is used to refer to a smaller, more specific class, such as bugs, your John Handcock, or genericized trademarks.
  • A material is used to refer to an object composed of that material, like the good silver, brandishing cold steel, wearing threads or glasses or a rubber.
  • A container is used to refer to its contents, like kegs of beer, or barrels of oil.

Or sets that are defined as containing all sets, which would include the said set in an example of a strange loop, sometimes do not contain themselves. The famous example of Russell’s paradox is of a barber who shaves all men who do not shave themselves and only men who do not shave themselves. When one thinks about whether the barber should shave himself or not, the paradox begins to emerge.

One can argue that these abstracts like synecdoche or “lists of all lists that do not contain themselves” are too absurd to exist, or would be an empty or null set. But that might not suffice for someone who believes that existence first lies buried somewhere deep in the essential being of human knowledge, true and irrefutable. As Tom Waits once wrote, “everything you can think of is true.”

These ideas in one form or another persists today, even modern philosopher Sartre defining reality as sets of being and non-being, or no thing, your calculating consciousness both creating and annihilating existence, a concept so frightening that it makes me want to futilely look behind me very quickly just to make sure. Truly, my existence predates my essence, but do we even need the latter at all?

Do these sort of puzzling concepts exist only in the mind? Was Carl Jung’s collective unconsciousness the source and repository of all of our shadowy dreams, hopes and fear? Though, without diverging on an entire tangent, I always flinch in the face of the more formidable paranormal implications of Jung.

More importantly, with modern technology and science growing more and more capable of truly defining matter and mind down to every subatomic particle and electrochemical neural impulse, could it be that this branch of philosophy’s entire field of inquiry isn’t really all that relevant anymore?

Get Stitches

I had a conversation with a friend of mine concerning the various definitions, ramifications, and iterations of the word ‘bitch.’ As political corrective fluid is spilled across large swaths of society, I think it is important to develop a better understanding of what words mean. Attempting to censor (even the moderate and etiquette-based forms of self-censorship) without delineating will either fail outright, or else create a sort of Orwellian nonsensical paralanguage where words do not mean what we think they do, or did, or should.

If used to refer to any woman as any woman, or the whole of womanhood, it is most certainly bad. This is the definition most ill-used in ill hip-hop; “I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one.” Denigrating a particular woman by categorizing her merely as woman, and specifically coloring womanhood in a demeaning or belittled manner, this is definitely the most misogynistic definition we should focus on eradicating.

But ‘bitch’ even in reference to a particular woman, has had another more specific negative connotation that, interestingly, is ripe for re-appropriation. This same friend of mine readily self-labels herself as a ‘bitch’ in the sense that she is an empowered, opinionated, extroverted, strong-willed fighter. Because women are not helpless, defenceless weaklings dependent on men for sustenance, it makes perfect sense to use a word previously heralded by the oppressors in a new way to ratchet up the language as an empowering tool. She isn’t just “some bitch” or “someone’s bitch”, she’s “THE bitch” as in a declarative statement of only one of her defining qualities; “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint…” It’s edgy, it’s attention-grabbing, it’s powerful. And contextualized correctly, it’s not only deprived of simple-minded pejorative, it’s actually quite complimentary. Actively re-appropriating a word like ‘bitch’ to describe powerful, positive female role models can devalue the negative aspects of the word in all but only the already most hateful of minds: Xena, Wonder Woman, etc.

Then, curiously and conversely, there is the usage of ‘bitch’ to denote weakness or femininity in men (instead of those previously mentioned qualities of stubborn-headedness, strength, and boldness traditionally applied to men). Whenever ‘bitch’ is applied to a man (either heterosexual or homosexual, though in the latter community the former is also used), it is used as a sign that they are clearly far below the alpha males, unto them as members of the female harem might be. You may be familiar with the use of ‘bitches’ in prison, or if you’ve never been to prison, the television show ‘Oz.’ Or if you’ve never seen the television show ‘Oz,’ the movie ‘Baseketball’ where one of the characters (a diminutive and skinny fellow with a gentle nature) is literally nicknamed ‘Lil Bitch.’ This is doubly bad, IMHO, since it not only serves to stigmatize, stereotype, and/or penalize feminine qualities in men, and by extension women, it is also a direct insult to body type and personality that may not be easily changed, nor should they feel the need to have to live up to some archaic masculine standard. Regardless of whether those qualities actually typify women (and the previous examples show that it is surely a poor paintbrush to be using so widely), who is to say that a man cannot benefit from the integration of naturally-occurring feminine qualities and traits? A male friend of mine, a self-proclaimed pacifist who has had his fair share of bullies to deal with in his life, has even proclaimed his desire to re-appropriate this usage for the proud peace-lovers of the world, or in the eyes of the machismo majority, ‘little bitches.’ We’ll see how far that will fly.

This is all getting a little confusing for a single word, unlike the word ‘fuck’ (whose many meanings and usages more or less follow the same common theme), ‘bitch’ has widely different meanings. There are the many adjective forms, such as a person who is bitchy, or a wave that is bitchin’. Its verb form ‘to bitch’ as in gripe, complain, or whine about, is perhaps historically also connected to a derision of women, especially if closer to the ‘strong-headed woman’ noun, as in “What a bitch! She bitched me out!” While some of these other words may have to be eradicated, replaced, or spelled differently, at least this noun-and-verb one-two punch has at least enough thematic collusion to be pair-bonded. Still, verb bitching to yourself because it’s raining is not the same as verb bitching on the phone so that you bank doesn’t unjustly overdraft you $500.

Which finally addresses re-appropriation and censorship. Language evolves and words are discontinued or adapted in usage slowly over time based on the needs of that culture. The n-word in black communities over the centuries, the f-word in the queer community and on GLEE (and even the word queer itself). Forcing the issue will not work if the time and environment for adaptation is not right for the word. Imagine trying to get pre-Civil War slaveholders to stop using the n-word. Probably not the most pressing social justice concern at the time, and realistically, the society was not receptive to such suggestions of change in any way. Confusion occurs when words are ‘campaigned’ against, with advocacy and awareness mixing with backlash, sarcasm and dissenting opinions within and without the ranks. The recent anti-‘retard’ word efforts are not as successful as intended, perhaps due to the many changes to the terminology for mentally or physically handicapped seen by an otherwise uninterested populace, or the equation of ‘retarded’ with simply ‘lame’ in the lexicon of young people.

I’m all for a world where people do not feel marginalized by words. Ideally, people would stop using those words of their own volition. But that may never be the case. And legislative attempts to censor words are not only unconstitutional, they’re wrong, and they don’t work. Advocacy is great where it gets results, but directed funding may not accomplish much. It is better to subtly slide changes into popular culture over time. Words lose steam on their own anyway, such as mulatto or chinaman, though it could be claimed that Larry David and Walter Sobchak help a little in their roles (respectively). The best thing, I believe, is to refuse to cater and patronize insulting forms of empty media, and to support the humorous devaluing of derogatory language in layered comedies, political satire, and then common usage. On a large-scale, a rift can appear in the societal context of these ‘dirty’ words, with the chaff being separated from the wheat, with the festering hate language relegated to the curiosity of historical record.