18 July 2007

The Daily Nous, July 17, 2007


(CNN) -- NFL quarterback Michael Vick, recently indicted on federal charges for his participation in a dog fighting ring at his home in Virginia, is now under investigation for an alleged earlier dog fighting ring that had a bizarre twist. Incredibly, Vick was actually inside the ring fighting the dogs himself.

Vick isn’t contesting the charges. He has been open and cooperative with law officials and the press about his involvement since the charges surfaced. “I figured, hey, things can’t get much worse than they already are. Maybe this cooperation will buy me some leniency when I’m being sentenced.” On that note, PETA released a statement on their website early Thursday, decrying Vick’s actions and pledging to see that he receives the maximum sentence for his actions. This official statement points out that "the one thing worse than training animals to inflict harm on each other for our entertainment is inflicting harm upon them ourselves for our entertainment."

In reply to PETA, Vick was reported to have said, “I’m really sorry. If I had known that I was supposed to just let the dogs fight each other, I would’ve been doing that this whole time. I mean, as soon as I did find out, I made the switch immediately. Believe me, it would’ve been a whole lot easier if I’d known from the beginning. I missed so many practices because of lacerations and puncture wounds on my hands—I had the team doctors breathing down my neck the whole time.”

“Some of those pit bulls are mean machines,” said Vick. “Worse than any linebacker I’ve ever met.”

16 July 2007

The Daily Nous, July 16, 2007

Sacramento, CA (AP)--While waiting at a busy intersection in downtown Sacramento, pedestrian Reginald Whipple made a startling discovery that may revolutionize the practice of crosswalking. It all began last Tuesday when he pressed the "walk" button at Arden and Howe.

"After hitting it the first time," said Whipple, "I thought, 'What if it didn't work?' So I decided to hit it again."

Then Mr. Whipple noticed something strange. As soon as he had finished hitting the button twice, the light changed and he was allowed to cross the street.

"Literally, a light just went off in my head. I figured I'd do a little experiment," explained Whipple. "I repeatedly punched the button as fast as I could. Every time I did, the light would change faster than when I only hit it once."

When asked if he thought that the lapsed time before the changing of the light was correlated with the speed of the button-pushing, Whipple shrugged and replied, "I don't know that we can say that just yet. There's still so much more to be done on this study. The exciting thing is that we know that the lights are actually responding to the repeated depressions of the button."

At a recent press conference, Whipple made some conjectures about the inner workings of this phenomenon. "It is my hypothesis that the stoplight networks have developed social practices with pedestrians, and that they have done this to the point where they are now capable of perceiving distress or urgency in something as simple as a rapid burst of button depressions."

Pedestrians all over the nation are now taking advantage of Whipple's startling discovery.

13 July 2007

Russ and Bets, Russian Bends

Rascality, Porter-style.

Kris and I visited our friends Russ and Betsy last week. They fed us, entertained us, and kicked us out to sleep in a tent in their neighbor's gravelly driveway. It sounds bad, but it was actually quite posh--a five man tent with an inflatable mattress. Playing tug-of-war with their dachsund, Terry, was one highlight. Another was watching Russ jump into a not-quite-hygienic canal to fetch his frisbee.
On Sunday we were able to be with Russ and Bets for the blessing of their newest child, Reid. We feel grateful to have been there--and grateful for such loving, funny, talented friends.
Another highlight: while setting up our picnic at the park, an old guy interrupted his exercise stroll and approached us.
"Nice park, eh?" he said. (Murmurs and nods from around the picnic table.)
"You know what would make it nicer?" he asked. (Sadly, nobody did.)
"A public restroom," he announced. He paused, nodding, letting it sink in.
He then proceeded to tell us the history of the park and how obstinate the city council has been regarding this bathroom issue. He urged us to do our civic duty and call the representative and express our displeasure over the dismal bathroomlessness of the park. As he left, we all yelled "thanks", but I don't think anybody meant it.

After leaving the Andersons, we went to visit Kris' aunt and uncle in Santa Cruz. While we were there, we visited the Boardwalk. All I can remember from the last time I went to the Boardwalk is that I caught a little fish and wanted to keep it but it died on the way to my great-grandma's house in Oakland, so I tried to revive it in her toilet. I think I was five years old.
It was overcast the whole day, so all we did was walk around, go on one rollercoaster, and watch a circus put on by some Russians. When I hear the words "Russian Circus" I expect bears and wolves, mustaches and M.C. Hammer Pants, and vodka. Oh, I guess they had vodka. And a guy dressed up in a bear suit doing cartwheels. But, lamentably, in all other respects the Russian Circus is modernizing itself.
First of all, they had a clown, which I didn't expect, never having associated clowns with Russians. The poor clown. He spent about two minutes preparing for his elaborate vaudeville trick where he hung his hat and vest on a cane, which he balanced on his forehead. His goal was to let the cane drop and have the hat and vest slip right over him. There are few things more difficult to watch than a clown taking himself seriously and messing up repeatedly. Those few other things are pretty much comprised by the rest of the circus.
I hope the crowd didn't leave with the impression that all you need to start up a circus is to find a couple double-jointed girls, dress them up in embarrasing outfits, and find two guys that are able to lift the girls up while they do their bendy stuff. To be fair, I should mention that we didn't watch the whole thing. Maybe the wolves came out later.
Man, what a harsh reviewer I am. Here's an honest suggestion: If you guys ever come back to the Boardwalk, maybe you could dress the girls up in scuba gear, have them walk out of the surf and onto the stage, announce that, due to a rapid ascension, they have the "bends", and then let them do their bendy routine to "The Bends" by Radiohead. Good Russian humour. I totally would've laughed.

08 July 2007

Ethics of Memory

An unwelcome guest.

I have a problem with my brain: thoughts sometimes get on a loop and just cycle for days, sometimes weeks. My brother X.W. (of course these initials are fictitious for the protection of my brother Eric) suffers from the same problem, and his is of a particularly vicious flavour (I’m practicing my Canadian spelling before we move there). The phrase “I’ve got a song stuck in my head” is the point of departure for X. He’ll be stuck on a line from a song for days. Lately he has had a tough time escaping the rut of “Encarnacion”, a love song by Jack Black in the movie Nacho Libre. And X doesn’t remember with quiet images tucked into the recesses of his private thoughts—X remembers with his entire body, most prominently his highly developed, operatic, stuck-on-full-volume vocal chords. This gives the reader a taste for the struggles endured by my brother and me.
This neurological issue isn’t the same thing as my past-time of being obsessed with a problem or two for years at a time. In fact, this loop malfunction often interrupts me in what contemplations I’ve managed to conjure. Just when I feel I’m on the verge of some important intellectual milestone, everything unexpectedly shifts gears and I find myself mentally repeating something like “gorgonzola . . . gorgonzola . . . gorgonzola,” as if it were the most natural thing to be doing with my time. Other times, it's more of a motor memory. If I'm on the computer I'll find myself just randomly clicking the mouse in circles, mesmerized for minutes by the little white arrow. And this has led me to the latest obsession: the intrusiveness of memory.
Well, it started as an interest in intrusiveness, but now I’ve moved on to other interesting aspects—particularly the ethics of memory.
The more I read about memory, the more I’m convinced that memory isn’t a matter of simple retrieval or access. Rather, it is a relatively creative process that relies upon cues from the situation that called for the memory in the first place, cues including personal contributions to the situation like emotional mood, level of hunger, the particular social goals and fears that are most salient at the time, etc. In light of the possibility of our creative role in memory, intentional or not, we should be anxious to explore different attitudes toward the ways in which we remember ourselves and others.
It seems to me that one important application of these thoughts, if they're accurate, is that we have the ability to examine how we see others and analyze the role of particular memories with them (memories we maybe once considered infallibly accurate portrayals of how things played out), take advantage of our creative role in memory, and reinterpret the event in a more charitable, humane light. If we do this enough, we may even find that we have formed rather pernicious habits of remembering events in a self-absorbed way. I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that we form addictions to certain roles (usually those that are, ironically, self-preserving in some ultimately destructive fashion), and that our acts of memory tend to be shaped by these roles.
And this also goes for how we remember ourselves. In our struggles to be honest with ourselves, how can we be true to something into which we only have foggy insight? Do we sometimes assume that it is impossible to be wrong about what some mistake, some blunder, or some bloated victory ultimately means for our selves? And do we make the mistake of assuming that these memories about others and ourselves could ever be neutral? What happens when we start to take responsibility for the implications of the meaning of a memory? A memory is never a neutral thing.