My dad yesterday recounted a story involving a friend (of my dad's generation) who professed both unfamiliarity with the word 'cannabis' and an inability to find that word in a dictionary -- two odd bits of cognitive incapacitation that rather ironically suggest a robust familiarity with the substance in issue, if not its designation.
Anyway, this got me thinking about basic dictionary-using competence. Seems like if you weren't good at using a dictionary, you'd have a need for a reference work, say, "Dictionaries for Dummies." But then given the very incapacity in issue, you'd need another reference work for that, ostensibly "'Dictionaries for Dummies' for Dummies." And so on. This obviously leads to a pedagogically vicious regress. Turns out, then, dictionary illiteracy is irremediable.
As a corollary, it is impossible that you are comprehending this post at all.
Brian Leiter posts Gerard Dworkin's "Is the Rack Torture?" It's a fine bit of satire, and a useful corrective to the pathological agnosticism about waterboarding that continues to be espoused by even "grown up" conservatives. (Strangely, the more they know, the less they know it.)
The Economist's Free Exchange limns an amusing colloquy among economists about the utility of existence. Worth reading in full, but I just want to rebut this one part of FE's analysis:
Mr Mankiw avoids talk of souls and simply speaks of what may be
observed. [But if admit such talk,] it is then
vivid that the decision not to have the next child will leave some unlucky soul dejected and unrealised. If having a kid benefits the kid, then not having a kid harms the kid-that-might-have-been.
Of course this conclusion is not ineluctable. For instance, when Sam Kinison's parents announced to him that he was “old enough to be on [his] own," Kinison noted:
You know, before I was your little son. Before I was your baby — before I was your loan — I was a free spirit in the next stage of life. I walked in the cosmos, not imprisoned by a body of flesh, but free, in a pure body of light. There were no questions, only answers. No weaknesses, only strengths. I was light, I was truth, I was a spiritual being, I was a God!!!
But you had to F*** and bring my ass down HERE!
I didn’t ask to be born! I didn’t call and say: ‘Hey, please have me so I could work in a f***in’ Winchell’s someday!’ Now you want me to pay my own way? F*** YOU! PICK UP THE F***IN’ CHECK, MOM! PICK IT UP!
I can't be sure, of course, but I read Kinison as pretty much disagreeing with the FE's analysis.
From the San Francisco/Berkeley CBS affiliate website:
Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders
had considered, and then subsquently [sic] rejected, building [a] so-called
[Said Sunshine Project's Edward Hammond,] "The
Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a
chemical that would cause enemy soliders [sic] to become gay, and to have
their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistably
[sic] attractive to one another...."
The Enchantress says the guys who cooked this one up must have wound up getting a gig as writers on the Austin Powers franchise. If so, I suppose the "gay bomb" idea didn't make it into any of the films only because it was just so over-the-top.
This may be one of the most amusing things I've ever seen. (But then I'm a fledgling fiddle player, so probably biased in unhealthy ways.) Especially noteworthy are the moves from ca. 1:00-2:05. Unreal. (But real, I assure you.)