Archive for the ‘Braak’ Category

david brooks
(I guess I am going to keep doing these.)

Friends, this week’s David Brooks column is…a little bizarre.  I don’t completely know what to make of it.  It’s definitely about Christian homophobes, and how they need to conduct themselves in the new, slightly-less-homophobic America that the Supreme Court has gay-married us all into, and I can’t tell if it’s this clever mixture of diplomacy and stinging criticism, or if it’s just astonishingly dopey.  Experience leads me to believe option two, but…man.

Just, look at this, check this out.

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The thing about a tumor is, it’s not just malign tissue.

(Well, the first thing is that it’s not “malign” at all; tumors aren’t evil, they’re just obstinately disinterested in the well-being of the organism that supports them. They’re more like Libertarians.)

A tumor isn’t just malign tissue, it’s a factory for malign tissue. It swells up somewhere, on your testicle, for instance, which you discover in the shower on Sunday night because your doctor told you when you were fourteen to start checking for tumors, because being fourteen wasn’t already an age replete with anxieties about uncontrollable forces destroying your life, you had to add in fucking tumors.

You find a mass on your testicle, and you know how tumors work, you know that it’s metastasizing even as you think about it, sending out fucking saboteurs to the rest of your organs.

I’ve had an ache in my thigh for a while now; is it a muscle pain, or is it a metastasized tumor that lodged in the muscle tissue of my leg? My back hurts, my spine is crawling with tumors. There are tumors in my intestines, in my prostate (prostate cancer is what killed my grandfather) and my colon (colon cancer is what killed his brother). There’s a pain in my groin roughly in the spot where my lymph nodes are (lymphatic cancer is an extremely common and dangerous variety).

If it hasn’t metastasized, maybe they’ll just cut off one or both of your testicles. If it’s spread to your muscles and your bones and your intestines, maybe they’ll just have to amputate my entire lower body. People can survive like that – you have colostomy bags for the rest of your life, and a wheelchair obviously, and you don’t fence or do kung fu or do a lot of things anymore, really.

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This movie was fine. There were a bunch of robots, and people shot beams at them. Thor hit some robots with his hammer, Hulk smashed some robots, Captain American kicked his shield around a bunch of times. The best part was James Spader’s exasperated Ultron, who just couldn’t believe how people didn’t get how great his plan is. Actually, I think as far as villains go, Ultron was probably the second best we’ve seen in a J. Whedon Joint – Holland pointed out to me that making the villain an insane robot actually makes a lot of things make a lot more sense. We’d have a hard time buying this kind of “I dunno, what about a meteor?” plan from a crazy human being, but a crazy robot, sure. Who knows WHAT those fucking things are up to.

(Who’s the first best villain? Loki? No, it’s the Mayor of Sunnydale from season 3 of Buffy. I contend that the best parts of Loki are actually Hiddleston’s nuanced, three-dimensional performance in Thor; in the Avengers, he’s interchangeable with any other dumb old megalomaniac.)

Obviously, though, I am here to talk about politics.

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The Hitler Questions

Posted: April 13, 2015 in Braak
Tags: ,

I like hypothetical ethical dilemmas. I think they’re interesting, because ordinarily I think we don’t really think about what constitutes “right” and “wrong”: we’ve just got a sense of it, and when questions come up, we respond to them intuitively first, and then justify them later. The purpose of Ethical Dilemmas is to interrogate that mechanism that lets us choose, but in an environment where outcomes are known to us. This lets us examine both how we feel about a question, and how those questions interact with what we say our principles are.

Here are some questions about whether or not you’d go back in time to murder Adolf Hitler.

(Trigger warning for some talk about the Holocaust and about rape and murder.)

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Here’s the thing about nerds – and please know that I’m including myself in this, maybe as the worst of us all, the monster is within me, &c.: we all know at this point that there are nerds. Nerds are people who like weird stuff, and sometimes display a socially-unacceptable level of enthusiasm for our weird stuff. We dress up in costume for Harry Potter book launches or sign our emails with Star Trek quotes or what have you. But I think everyone also knows that there are nerds, and then there are nerd nerds: the kind of guys that you hope never show up to a conversation about any topic, because despite our enthusiasm and our granular knowledge of every little bit of a topic, we’re fucking terrible.

We’re the Comic Book Guys of the world, the Um, Actuallys, the Technically Speakings of the world. You all know us and I think that, even though we talk a big game about bullying, I think we maybe know, deep down, that when we do that kind of shit we deserve a little bit of the pejorative muck that still sullies the word “nerd.”

So, what I’m here to do is to present my Unified Theory of Being a Nerd, and then (maybe more importantly), I want to talk a little about the two major attitudes towards the world that it causes, and why these things are bad, why they should be rejected, and a little bit about how to quarantine them.

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We have all been waiting for the answer to this question, “Can a white man criticize the p.c. culture of the liberal left?” and Jonathan Chait has answered this question at length . The answer is apparently, “He CAN, but probably SHOULDN’T.” Much better writers will do much better responses to this, but it’s left me so irritated that I couldn’t help but write at least a little bit.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with…I guess…let’s do “commencement speakers”, and maybe ask a few questions about why guys like Jonathan Chait get their knickers in a twist when a student body tries to block one person or another from speaking at their commencement.

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Part of a series that includes:

Atheism

Materialism

Mysticism

So. I have been holding off writing this part while I thought about it, because I have had this fear that what I was saying was a basically ordinary thing, that only seemed complex or significant to me because of the process that I went about to get to it. I remember once when I took the SATs, and I didn’t have a graphing calculator, so I took a minute to re-derive the quadratic equation so I could use it to solve problems. This felt very satisfying to me, like I’d accomplished something great and important, but obviously it wasn’t of any more practical significance than it would have been if I’d just remembered what the quadratic equation was.

The idea that I have here sort of synergizes with that, though – that in a way what I want to talk about is the difference between talking or thinking about something or changing something at a surface level, and changing something at this deep, deep psychic level. At the top they look the same, but they aren’t the same, and that’s important.

Maybe this will be made clear. Anyway, another caveat: I’m going to be referring to “zen” here as a specific practice as I’ve gleaned it. I am not a Zen Buddhist, really; I don’t come from a Zen Buddhist culture, I am not trained in a Zen Buddhist tradition, I don’t participate in it as a living religious culture. All I’ve done is read a little bit, and the misfortune I have is that the word “zen” as a kind of meditative practice appears to be the only word for the thing I want to describe. So, I’ll get to that to, but I want to just here at the beginning clear up what I mean, and apologize for stealing people’s vocabulary.

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