Sunday, May 29, 2005

Not Part III

I'd continue the series today as planned, but I'm running on four hours of sleep, so I'm not quite up to it. Instead, behold the state of my life.

My Finals: Since I'm graduating, my finals are earlier than the usual Finals Week, so the professors can grade them in time. I already took Analysis; I have both Differentiable Manifolds and Algebraic Curves on Thursday. I was uncharacteristically anxious about the Analysis final: I can't remember the last time before this that I felt queasy over a test. (I'm lucky in that respect, I know.) Maybe my nervousness had something to do with Kenig's threat to fail me. I think he was just trying to shock me into doing more work. I hope. Berkeley would not be happy.

My Summer Schedule: After I take my finals, I hang around for Senior Week (Finals Week for the non-graduating students), and finally cross the stage on June 11th. I go home on the 12th, and after a few days I'm traveling with my family to sunny Hawaii. It's our first real vacation together since 2000, so I'm excited. We return home on the 21st, Alice and Danny (Katie's boyfriend) come to St. Louis for a week, and in late July I will drive out to Berkeley. I'm planning to take Father Keyes up on his offer to rent the St. Edwards guest room while I'm looking for someplace to live in Berkeley. And, God willing, I'll be ready for the preliminary exams in August.

My Weekend: Memorial Day weekend is, again, quite eventful. Friday evening was Religious Appreciation Night, a potluck supper to which we students invited the priests and religious who have helped out at Calvert this past year. Yesterday I went and saw Episode III with Alice, Erik and Katherine, then returned home to Ian's birthday party. I'll leave it to him to describe the party as he wishes; it was quite fun and not terribly unwholesome. Anyhow, this should explain my four hours of sleep.

Today, our Mass was followed by a Eucharistic procession across the quads, the congregation chanting the Pange Lingua before the respectful landscapers and the befuddled wanderers. Then I went with a group to eat and to watch "The Cardinal", a three-hour 1963 film tracing the life of a fictional American cleric from 1916 through 1944, bringing him face-to-face with well-known personalities and the main issues of the day (as seen through a 1963 American Catholic lens); it was commented that it's "like a Catholic Forrest Gump. While it ultimately wasn't really epic, it was not bad; while it didn't really capture anything too poignant about Catholicism (save for the old liturgy, which seen now is stunningly beautiful), it illuminated the ideas of obedience and vocation in a way that modern Hollywood is loath to do. It was the better of the two movies I saw this weekend.

And tomorrow, Memorial Day, I'm going to see some old buddies at the Midtown Center Barbecue. I worked there in summer 2002, as a counselor for middle-school students in their summer program. It was a good summer for me; I stayed in the building with seven other counselors (we called ourselves the 8-Pac, went on trips up to Lake Geneva, argued literature and philosophy and the like). It's a program run by Opus Dei, an organization whose spirituality I don't fully agree with but which I do respect. Anyway, this should be a good completion to this weekend.

Episode III: Oh yeah, that other movie I saw this weekend. It was a gut-wrenching two hours of disappointment for me. Now, upon reflection, I won't say that a smart person can't enjoy this movie. It's just that it fell into so many of my personal plot and dialogue pet peeves; that every time I was getting ready to suspend disbelief, something came across that revolted my inner critic. So I spend the entire movie in a huff about how it could have been done so much better if George Lucas' ego had let him give the script to anyone else.

Let me explain why. The following examples are not really spoilers of the important parts of the movie. But be forewarned nonetheless.

1. George Lucas draws heavily from the "List of Clich├ęd Lines That Should Never Be Used At A Dramatic Point In A Movie." Transliterating them into Yoda-speak does not help. When Darth Sidious talks about taking over the galaxy, Yoda replies, "Not if anything to say about it I have!" Disappointing.

2. The Star Trek habit of inventing new technology as lazy plot advancement. The Jedi are about to leave the spaceship, when out of nowhere a blue glow surrounds them. "Ray shields!", obviously impervious to Jedi countermeasures. Well gee, why didn't anyone use or mention THAT handy invention in ANY OF THE OTHER MOVIES? Disappointing, especially since the Jedi could have been captured here in any number of other ways.

3. The inability to step back and ask, "Would any half-sane character really do this?" This has been more glaring in Episodes I through III than in the originals, because we knew that the Resistance was desperate. But the side of the Republic, which clearly has the upper hand, is not going to stake all its hopes on a half-assed rescue attempt that involves (1) two lone Jedi against a battlecruiser full of robots, (2) these Jedi intentionally walking into what they suspect to be a trap designed specifically for them, (3) these Jedi counting on a lone, barely-armed droid to bail them out at the crucial moment, and (4) these Jedi starting a close-quarters battle with lightsabers and guns blazing in the immediate vicinity of the unarmed and vulnerable hostage. Disappointing.

4. Dialogue that is so bad an eight-year-old could do it better. I think that I sum up the singular craptacularity of this script in the following line: "Hold me, Anikin; hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo!" Disappointing fails to express what I felt. I felt like I had just taken a verbal lightsaber to the gut.

If you can look past all that, there were exciting fight scenes, neat landscapes and the answers to many questions in the Star Wars pantheon. But I couldn't look past it.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Human Sexuality Part II

[If you haven’t already done so, read Part I. Each part will build on what came before.]

I've argued that Eros is naturally relational- that we are built in such a way that we seek our romantic fulfillment in exclusive relationships (whether temporary or permanent), and that the exceptions to this are something other than Eros [what they are, I'll get to in a later post]. It then makes sense to ask what effect sexual acts have upon a relationship of two in such a state of Eros. The definition of "sexual acts" here is pretty expansive, and for the purposes of this discussion I'm going to define it as anything, from "making out" on up, that intentionally leads to arousal and/or sexual pleasure. I'm just going to hope you know what I mean.

That the effects of this class can be discussed in general is, of course, non-trivial. We don't bother to ask what effect, say, going out to dinner has on a relationship in general because it can mean so many different things: a special treat, a relief from the necessity of cooking, an exploration of an uncommon type of food, et cetera. In other words, we have remarkable ability to define for ourselves what dining out is going to mean. I assert that sexual acts are of a different sort, that there's a rather significant element to what I before called the objective character of the act, and that we don't have the latitude to redefine this as we see fit.

Our biology is such that we have pretty predictable responses in a number of important spheres; one of these is sexuality. Disorders aside, there are certain hormones that guys and girls release, there are certain areas of the brain that get involved, during these sexual acts. As far as I know, there's not that much intrinsic biology around restaurant-going, so much more of that experience consists of learned and willed responses. The reason for this difference is pretty obvious, whether you believe in evolution or intelligent design or what-have-you. Since procreation depends on the sexual act, it's pretty important for survival of the species that the individual responses surrounding sexual acts not be dependent on chance or on caprice. Of course, it appears from this that natural selection dictates only the responses surrounding coitus, and that the rest of our sexual behavior (heterosexual and homosexual) gains innate responses by similarities to coitus; after all, it is the only sexual act which bears directly on reproduction. But the fact is that all these sexual acts set this internal process in motion, release the same hormones, stimulate the same brain areas, so they trigger many of the same responses and effects.

We developed a whole set of innate sexual behavior for this reason, a set of responses to and effects of sexual acts. These responses and effects, then, we're not in control of to the same degree that we control many of our other responses (either through cultural conditioning or through conscious effort). So much so, in fact, that we can draw some very meaningful general conclusions from observing ourselves and others.

So the big conclusion I'm going to draw here is one that, I hope, is mostly obvious: that these sexual acts create a peculiar sort of emotional and psychological bond within a relationship. A couple just isn't quite the same way to each other before and after some significant level of physical intimacy. This bond- what Catholic terminology denotes the "unitive aspect" of sexual acts- has many effects on the couple, some of which are positive and some negative in a given context. The couple usually starts desiring each other more than before (after a period of satiety), becomes more exclusive and more jealous, becomes more willing to commit to each other and to overlook problems. [An interesting study I've heard quoted on the exclusivity claimed that for more than a day after intercourse with a woman, a man will experience a moderate psychological aversion to women other than the one he slept with. Peter, do you remember the source?]

The reasons for this sort of psychological bond should be apparent, as well, from necessity. If we are to have such a significant innate aftereffect of sexual activity, it must have been selected for in relation to the process of reproduction: for human beings, both procreation and child-rearing. It is for the purpose of the second, that father and mother might be united to each other in the proper way to take care of children, that this psychological bond has come to be.

Need I note again that this is not yet a moral claim? Teleology is not necessarily ethics; just because something came to be for a certain reason does not mean that it must be used for that reason. As people have been quick to point out on other blogs discussing this, we evolved hair to keep our brains warm and keep us alive; but we use it for distinguishing statements of fashion, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong in this.

But it does say something about the chaos we observed in the temporary sexual relationships of high school. Couples are forming with each other these emotional bonds strong enough to hold together a father and mother while they raise children, and forming this bond in situations where it's unlikely they'll be together for more than a few weeks. It looks somewhat like trying to run an iPod on a car battery, and is often as destructive. High school-age boys and girls end up in therapy, or doing stupid things to escape the pain, or attempting suicide, in staggering numbers from broken sexual relationships these days. Moral or not, it certainly looks foolish in that context.

Again, I don't think I've said anything really controversial yet. I just claim that sexual acts do, in general, have meaningful effects on a couple, and that these effects correspond to the sort of psychological bond involved in staying together and raising children as a couple. If I need to clarify something, or if you think I'm overreaching, tell me so. Otherwise, Part III is scheduled for Sunday.
Human Sexuality Part I

This series of posts is going to win me few friends. I intend to talk about the inherent nature of sexual acts. I know in advance that many of you will disagree with me at some point, and some of you may even be offended. Please understand that I don't despise you for disagreeing, nor for acting contrary to what I believe is right. I ask for your continued respect as you comment and respond.

Now, I'd like to focus on the sexual drive itself. Not just the state of arousal and physical desire, but the very real drive within us. Plato calls it Eros in his dialogue Symposium, where he uses it to refer to all sexual passions and the whole set of actions tangential to that. I'm talking about the reason that Ophelia committed suicide, the reason that Dante wrote some girl he barely knew into a divine guide through Paradise, the reason behind the arcane unwritten rules of dating, the reason that some people will stay in relationships that hurt them even if they'd be happier elsewhere, the reason that a boy and girl in junior high get nervous and sweaty just holding hands. None of these are simply about satisfying a desire for sex, but all are intimately linked to that force Eros.

The first thing I really want to confront is the idea that this Eros is really just a seeking after sexual pleasure. Of course this seems reasonable because the sexual drive often does manifest itself as a desire for that pleasure. But if that were the most important object of Eros, well, free love of the 1967 sort would have caught on more universally, would have continued everywhere. Perhaps I'd better explain. The way that we go about our pursuit of Eros is remarkably inefficient, if it were just a search for that pleasure. We spend a lot of time pining and wooing. We still remain monogamous in remarkable numbers, both inside and prior to marriage. If Eros were really just about seeking sexual pleasure, the arrangement of 1967 (with safe sex added in) would be an ideal free market for that, and people would find themselves instantly sated rather than dependent on the whims of one particular other. But the Summer of Love didn't catch on; ultimately, the majority of people found themselves more fulfilled in monogamy (or serial monogamy). [Hook-ups and one-night stands are a special case today, and it seems to me they aren't simply a pleasure transaction either; more on them in a later post.] It seems that in Eros, we want the relational aspect of sex (a particular Beloved, who is the direct object of our passion) so much that we are willing to give up a good deal of physical pleasure for it. We want to have our hopeless crushes, our long-distance relationships, our gradual romancing- all of which impose strict limits on our sexual pleasure. Furthermore, the completely non-relational sexual activity- autoeroticism- bears a special shame within Eros. I'd be surprised if even those who have convinced themselves of its morality would admit to that habit before their lover without embarrassment. [An exception is made here in the case of those who are rebelliously proud of the action; more on this later, as well. But those who see it as of no consequence, as opposed to those who see it as a positive sign of liberation, would still be ashamed to admit to the practice.]

Anyway, two points I'm making now:

The first is the claim that Eros isn't simply, isn't principally, a desire for pleasure. Of course that drive for pleasure plays a big part in the way people under the influence of Eros act, but the drive itself is much larger than that.

The second is just that a relational Eros is the norm here, that the two sorts of non-relational sexual activity outlined above are not the same as the Eros in question, and that this is not simply social conditioning. The vast majority of people, those with traditional sexual mores and those with modern sexual mores, still seek out relationship with a specific Beloved (or a sequence of specific Beloveds). This in itself is not an ethical point: the kind of "norm" here stated is a claim about human nature, but I haven't at this point asserted anything really normative about it.

This post isn't some "sneaky" setup, either. I mean this part to be just common sense and to correspond to our own experience; the controversy will arrive in due time.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Caesar's Bath

After waiting in vain for a specific invitation to this blogging meme (hey Aunt Elena, would a little nepotism have been so bad?), I've decided to take Camassia's general indult.

Behold, the Caesar’s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling…but nice.”

This has been used mostly for pop culture (I've seen responses of "American Idol", "The Incredibles", "Monty Python", "bashing Harry Potter", etc). But I decided to take it in a bit of a different direction, as they say. Here goes:

1. Social Commentary Masquerading As Literature. It doesn't matter whether I agree with the author or not. I got sick of "The Flying Inn" just as I got sick of "The World According to Garp". I'm not saying that literature shouldn't reflect on the world around it, now. But when half of the characters are written not as recognizably human characters, but as instructive stereotypes, there's a problem. When the humor of the book depends on the reader sharing the author's disgust at a certain group of political adversaries, there's a problem. Books don't have to be apolitical (see one of my favorites, "All the King's Men"), but I personally can't stand reading a novel that clearly began as a political statement in the author's mind.

(As regards Chesterton, I do like the CQT stories, for instance- it's just that in some of his other fiction, he makes his "modernity isn't all that great" point with an unnecessary sledgehammer.)

2. Soup. This is probably due to my poor sense of smell, which prevents me from fully appreciating flavor. But the texture of certain soups just bores me. The limp vegetables of minestrone, the bland and grainy lentil soup, the soggy meat of chicken noodles, etc- they're often just a culinary punishment for me. (Some exceptions: I do like egg drop soup and borscht.)

3. Reductio Ad Absurdum. I object not to the philosophical principle in general, but to its overuse and misuse in the blogosphere. I groan inwardly when another comments-box Cicero writes "well, if you believe X, why not Y? And boy, we all see that Y is obviously wrong. So you must be wrong." This gets my goat whether I agree or disagree with X:

"You believe that some wars can be just? You mean you believe that it's OK to drop bombs on civilian populations?"

"You believe it was OK to kill Terri Schiavo in this way? You mean you believe we should simply kill all the disabled?"

I winced similarly in both cases (and, as you might guess, I believe that just wars are possible and also that ending Terri's life by dehydration was immoral). It's sloppy argument, as it really applies the reductio principle backwards: rather than showing that the questioned principle X implies or leads to Y, the commenter uses the fact that Y implies X to condemn X. It's irresponsible, and hard to rationally combat. And it's the darling of too many armchair philosophers in the blogosphere.

4. Mistaken Identity. It's one of the oldest plot devices, from the Greeks to Shakespeare to whatever sitcom is number one these days. And I just don't have the reaction of amusement I'm supposed to have. Instead, I feel remotely queasy about the whole thing. I guess that the prospect of assuming someone else's identity, when it comes down to it, is something that appears not fun but fearsome to me. Think of the first half of the scene in Collateral when Max has to impersonate Vincent. That tension, which was intentional in that scene, is what I usually end up feeling in other mistaken-identity plots, when I gather I'm supposed to be laughing at the confusion.

(Beware: rant ahead)

5. Sociology. The shiny new science of obfuscation, now in full command of the U of C Divinity School and other organizations. I audited a class on Durkheim last year, I've read some of my roommate's books of sociology. And I've come to the conclusion that you can say anything at all as a sociologist, and come up with pages and pages of argument for it in a convincing style. Convincing, because of the pronounced narrative dimension to sociological writing. As with history, you become convinced because you're reading a story. That's all well and good, but historians have the good habit of telling stories of actual, researchable, fact-checkable entities: people, well-defined groups of people, certain ideas in the literature of the time. Sociologists get to make up their entities and tell a story of them fighting, behind the scenes of the actual events we see. It's metaphysical while telling you that it's not. Ironically, it's literature masquerading as social commentary.

So that's my five. I hereby pass the baton to Alice, Cory, Nick, Ian and Geoff. You may reinterpret the assignment as you like. And you other bloggers I know? I cut it off at five pretty arbitrarily; I'm pretty sure you know one of the above bloggers well enough to ask for their summons. Be patient, grasshopper.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Virtue Ethics: A Still More Perfect Way

It's easy to get unbalanced in my study of ethics. Another tendency that I know I've become overly caught up in at times is that of casuistry: trying to figure out under what circumstances each sort of act would be moral or immoral, and trying to base my life on these calculations. For example, is file-sharing morally acceptable? Is it OK to have song files from my parents' and sister's music on my own computer? If I think it's unethical to take copyrighted music by file-sharing, must I delete all my old files or just stop adding new ones?

One problem with this is that I often end up simply skating as close to the edge as possible: if I convince myself that an act that I want to do is permissible, I end up doing it even if there are ethically better alternatives. Think of an accounting firm which is careful to understand the applicable laws as carefully as possible, but consistently looks for loopholes and tries to "push the envelope" to the edge of what is legally permitted. It seems to me that this company is not as far removed from an Arthur Andersen as they might think.

The other danger that I have experienced with casuistry is that of scrupulosity; when I analyze my actions against those nuanced standards, I become aware of a thousand ways that I violated the ethical precepts. Some part of me ends up wanting to go to Confession for the most minor things, many not even totally voluntary. Such is known as Catholic guilt. Severe scruples drove Luther to declare that every human action is so tainted with sin that we might as well stop striving to be better, and just cry out as totally depraved creatures.

So what might be a better way for me to think of the moral life? Well, what is the difficulty for me? It seems to lie at the borders rather than with the major ethical precepts: I get stuck in casuistry not in deciding whether real insults are unethical, but in figuring out the line between playful joking and the beginnings of mockery.

One thing that has intrigued me lately as a solution has been virtue ethics- focusing on cultivating the right interior disposition with regard to the ethical principles. That I often go too far in making fun of my friends is a sign that I need to work on respect and charity toward others. I ought to develop better habits, until I am concerned enough for their dignity that I would not make them uncomfortable. If I reach a better state, then I would more naturally respect the boundary between joking and insulting.

Of course, it is important here to note that the objectively immoral actions are simply not consonant with possession of the virtues, so virtue ethics is not a denial of objective moral statements, nor is it an intention-based ethics. It is a way of approaching the moral life that is, I think, more sensible than trying to reason out each case, Kant-like.

Have I made myself sufficiently unclear?
Ethics: Intent and Objective Character

It's odd when two different discussions with different people turn out to hinge on the same point. I think I'll get to those individual topics later; what I want to talk about is the point that connects the two.

In ethics, it is very easy to become enthralled by the psychological drama of intent. When I was younger, I spent much time thinking about whether a person who attempted murder, only to see his gun misfire, was morally culpable of murder although his target was unscathed. The great questions in ethics, it seems from this sort of perspective, are really issues in psychology and epistemology.

But of course, the philosophical traditions of the past- and the Church- hold to the importance of the actual events and to what I call the objective character of the act. Perhaps a helpful way of defining this objective character is "the set of all valid descriptions of the action". So the objective character of my current action includes such things as "typing on my keyboard", "writing something for my blog", "spending time alone", "thinking about ethics", and the like. (Perhaps this is a bad definition, but I hope you get a general idea of what I mean to describe.)

Intent is included in this, but it is far from all that influences the morality. For example: say I have a paper due on campus in fifteen minutes, and there's no bus. I take my friend's bicycle to campus, in order that my paper won't be turned in late. Now, I have a nice intention here, not unethical. But it makes all the difference whether I have permission to ride that bicycle (whether explicitly or implicitly given). That factor belongs to the objective character of the act, not to my intention (which is the same in either case: to get to campus in the next fifteen minutes).

One reason that, I think, the importance of intent takes a disproportionate role in many people's ethical understandings is that intent is more important in determining a person's culpability for wrongdoings than in determining moral precepts. In other words, when we say that bullying is wrong we are not very concerned with the motives of bullies; when we are deciding how to punish a bully we may be quite concerned with establishing his motives. We live in a culture with a great deal of litigation (and fear of litigation), and also in a culture where we are supposed to "fit the punishment to the crime" in other matters (like education and child-raising). This has made people spend more time thinking about culpability, and thus much more time thinking about intent. (Forgive my overgeneralization!)

So what points do I want to make at his stage?

(1) Whether an act is right or wrong depends on the objective character of the act, not just the actor's intent.

(2) Actions with similar intent but different contexts are not necessarily morally equivalent.

(3) Different actions with similar intents are not morally equivalent.

(4) In some cases, different intents change the moral status of an action.

(5) In some cases, different intents do not change the moral status of an action, but can affect how culpable/how laudable is the actor.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

HASH(0x8dce454)
You are Mr. Collins. You are snide, sniveling, and
a lot of other words that start with
"sn". You are a long-winded, greasy
git and nobody likes you, not even your wife.
Your only accomplishment is the patronage of a
rich and condescending woman, who only likes
you because you're easy to condescend. Go you.


Which Pride and Prejudice Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Anyhow, I just finished Pride and Prejudice (yes, I know, I have too much free time), and I loved it. Please tell me I don't have to turn in my Y chromosome.

I mean, it's not one of the most meaningful books I've ever read, but it's a wonderful read, like Moby Dick or Hitchhiker's Guide. I was reading quips out loud every couple chapters, Ms. Austen's wit delighted me so.
P... Phosphorous
You scored 45 Mass, 44 Electronegativity, 41 Metal, and 10 Radioactivity!
You're high energy... really high. Unfortunately, you don't always put your energy to calm constructive use and sometimes let it all out in intense bursts. If your energy can be harnessed however, you will produce truly great things. I suggest you take up a job that runs you ragged... like opening and closing a Sodium-Potassium pump. Socially you ought to hang with a crowd that is even more social than you. If you don't, well... all those people who spontaneously combusted throughout history... you guessed it, phosphorous people who didn't have enough to occupy themselves. When picking friends make sure most of them rated high on the electronegativity scale... Chlorines, Oxygens and whatnot.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 70% on Mass
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 83% on Electroneg
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 23% on Metal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 40% on Radioactivity
Link: The Which Chemical Element Am I Test written by effataigus on OkCupid Free Online Dating


Quiz thanks to Vanessa.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I. So I've finally updated the blog bar. It's all alphabetical now; I felt bad about any sort of non-arbitrary prioritizing between friends' blogs.

II. I've been busy yet again with Scav Hunt. And for the second year running, I wound up in an Edward Scissorhands costume. This time, an Edward Child-Safety-Scissor Hands Costumes. Yeah. The pictures of that aren't up yet, but you can see the photo gallery anyway.

III. I have no excuse for the following U of C adaptation, though:

(cue fuzzbox intro)

I-can't-get-no--Sat-is-fac-tion,
I-can't-get-no--Sat-is-fac-tion,
'Cause I try, and I try, And I try, and I try,
I CAN'T GET NO-
I CAN'T GET NO-

When I'm sitting in the Reg,
Adam Smith goes on a tangent
And he's telling me more and more
Useless nail-making information
Factories all over his nation,
I can't get no- ah, no no, no!

Hey hey hey, that's what I say

I-can't-get-no--Sat-is-fac-tion,
I-can't-get-no--Sat-is-fac-tion,
'Cause I try, and I try, And I try, and I try,
I CAN'T GET NO-
I CAN'T GET NO-

When I'm reading Augustine
And the saint goes on to tell me
How good his God can be,
But he can't be right 'cause he doesn't share
The same biases as me,
I can't get no- ah, no no, no!

Hey hey hey, that's what I say

I-can't-get-no--Sat-is-fac-tion,
I-can't-get-no--Thesis traction,
'Cause I try, and I try,
And I try, and I try,
I CAN'T GET NO-
I CAN'T GET NO-

When I'm writing for my grade,
And I'm redoin' this and editing that,
And I'm arguing with Socrates,
Who tells me buddy better write this maybe next day,
You're still living the un-examined way,
I can't get no, ah no no no

Hey hey hey, that's what I say

I can't get no, I can't get no
I can't get no satisfaction
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction...

IV. My Excuse For The Above

I work as a math tutor Wednesday nights in Harper Library. While waiting for students to show up on one slow evening, I started looking around for reading material and ran into their section on contemporary music. I've been reading two fascinating books: "Sixties Rock" by Michael Hicks, and "Rock of Ages" by Ward, Stokes and Tucker.

I picked these out because my musical taste has, in recent years, been skewed toward the 1960s and early 70s: my current playlist has many tracks from the following: Hendrix; Dylan; the Beatles; the Allman Brothers; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Cream; James Taylor; early Santana; early Chicago. So I was really intrigued to find out more about the emergence of rock in these years.

"Sixties Rock" goes into the technical details, showing the sophistication that I never knew existed in garage or psychedelic rock. Sometimes it's out on a limb, as when it connects the fuzzbox on "Satisfaction" to the Futurist philosophical movement. But it makes up for it with a detailed and engrossing deconstruction of the Doors' "Light My Fire", and other treats.

"Rock of Ages", commissioned by Rolling Stone magazine, focuses less on detailed analysis of the music, and more on the stories behind rock and roll: the transition of Bob Dylan from hootenanny to Highway 61, the organization that was Motown, and the like.

All together, it makes me wish I had more disposable income to blow on music.

Friday, May 06, 2005






Your English Skills:



Grammar: 100%

Vocabulary: 100%

Punctuation: 80%

Spelling: 60%


And I once placed in the St. Louis Spelling Bee. Drat. They asked two words I ought to have less trouble with by now.

And I'm late for class.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

What's Wrong With Me?