Speeding, I drive home
The full moon is huge. My eyes
return to the road.
It is 2 a.m.
He cried to go out. I am
a merciful god.
During the small hours,
I wrote two haikus
Speeding, I drive home
The full moon is huge. My eyes
return to the road.
It is 2 a.m.
He cried to go out. I am
a merciful god.
During the small hours,
I wrote two haikus
I walked into a vast basement warehouse in Phuket, Thailand in 2002 and was confronted with literally hundreds of oil paintings. I didn’t really know what to expect when the man on the street invited me inside to see the hand painted reproductions. At the time, I had no idea that reproductions were painted by hand, having assumed that all reproductions were prints and that the only hand painted reproductions would have been forgeries intended to deceive. Yet these were paintings to hang in your home, and the prices were reasonable. I assume the Thai artists were paid virtually nothing at all for their time.
Beyond my initial fascination with the few dozen artists all painting reproductions at the same time, I was confronted with a dilemma. I was told that they could hand paint anything, from any book of art you could bring them (even a photograph), or from the many museum art books lying around the pace.
If you could own any piece of artwork (hand painted, but not original) from any time in history, what would you want to have hanging on your wall?
I immediately thought of some of the greatest or most enjoyable works. The Mona Lisa, the Wall of the Sistine Chapel (I enjoy it more than the ceiling), Starry Night, etc. Then I thought about it some more and decided that, though I loved to see these pieces, I didn’t want to look at the Mona Lisa everyday. Sure, if it was THE Mona Lisa, I’d love to have it. But I guess the reproduction, no matter how accurate to the original, would always be known to me as a reproduction. Those weren’t Da Vinci’s paint strokes, that Michelangelo painting took 3 days to reproduce, not years, etc. I would know, and I would always feel I owned a lesser work compared to any original. As I started poring through the catalogs, I found incredible historic paintings, one after another, that I would never wish to own if they weren’t originals.
Should it matter? I mean, is the appreciation of art dependent so strongly on who actually painted it instead of what was painted? Seems pretty superficial to me.
But it did matter. I wasn’t drawn to any particular piece except one of Warhol’s soup cans, and that was partly because Warhol made tongue-in-cheek art out of the ordinary.
It turned out that I couldn’t settle on anything at all for myself. This led to a lot of soul searching on my part. Sure, the reproductions were not 100% of the originals, but what if they were? I decided I still didn’t want the Mona Lisa or Pieta, as I would rather support and own the real deal, no matter how unaffordable or impossible to acquire.
The Raft of the Medusa – awesome!
Tuna Fishing – Dali never fails to enthrall
But I have changed. Now, over a decade later, I came across a piece in a book that I enjoyed so much, I decided I must have a copy. It has been 15 years since I bought my last print, but this is not an everyday painting. Titled: Stranczyk during a ball at the court of Queen Bona in the face of the loss of Smolensk.
The quality of this small digital image is awful. If you can, please take the time to see a better image.
Painted by Jan Matejko in the 19th century, it is a painting of the court jester Stanczyk in 1514. In the background is the party as a very depressed Stanczyk considers the terrible Russian capture of Smolensk. I read in wikipedia that Stanczyk was known to be an intelligent, philosophical, man who used his wit and powers of satire to comment on Poland’s past, present, and future.
The image of the depressed fool, contemplating and concerned by world events while sitting apart from the party, is fantastic. One could speak of the interplay of colors, the bright chandelier in the background of the party, the portentous comet in the window, intertwined fingers and intense look of the jester, etc. For whatever reason, this painting spoke to me before I noticed the finer details. The closer I inspect it, the more those details add to my experience. I would gladly own a copy and have it framed in it’s full glory on my wall.
“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”
I have witnessed the growth of the food pic trend over the past few years. How could I not? Every time I go out to eat, there are people taking phone pics of their meals. And like everyone else, I’m annoyed by it. I find the act of taking the pictures in the middle of a meal rude. The pictures themselves are usually uninspired and they fall flat in their effort to convey the essence of the food. My most frequent reaction to such a pic in social media is to skip it. If my eyes accidentally stop on one, I am overcome by the thought, “Who cares?.”
But I am not holier than thou. I am a sinner as well. Perhaps the gravest sort, the hypocritical judge. Have I become the Elliot Spitzer who sees prostitutes on the side while prosecuting and damning them before the courts. The urge to take the pictures is so irresistible at times, I fall from my high horse and muck about in the mud with my phone out and the camera shooting away. Yes, I confess, I am weak and cannot help myself. Though I do my best to rise above, some rare courses call out to me and require my hamhanded, amateur, photographic talents. I convince myself that these are different from the many pics taken around me, that these are special. In the words of Thorin, from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, “I have never been so wrong.”
Nom Nom Nom
We eat to survive. Eating uses all of our senses and I assume, from an evolutionary standpoint, this is to determine if our food is going to kill us. Taste and smell are obvious senses with eating. Without these two, it doesn’t much matter what you pick on a menu.
With our sight we can tell if we have received what we ordered, or if our nut allergy is going to react to the ice cream sundae we definitely ordered without nuts. It also helps to see if our lettuce is wilted or if mold has appeared on our delicious loaf of cheese bread.
Consistency (touch) is extremely important. We don’t want to discover something hard inside our mashed potatoes or for our steak to have the consistency of mush. Some food should be hot in our mouths and some cold. If you aren’t sure of the role of touch, just think of a bowl of Cheerios. There isn’t much difference for taste between one that is just right and another that has sat for too long as we answered the door, but a mushy bowl of Cheerios borders on inedible. And good luck enjoying your room temperature coffee.
Lastly, hearing. We probably use this least when we eat, and hearing food eaten is considered bad manners in the West. Yet foods that are supposed to crunch, like Vlasic pickles or potato chips, advertise it. Pick a food that shouldn’t crunch, like a hot dog, and if hear a crunch, you know something has gone terribly wrong and your meal is finished.
When a photograph is taken of a beautiful Katz’s Deli pastrami sandwich, it can look good and make me salivate. But it only includes sight and that misses most of the point. The pic has no people in it, and unless I’ve eaten such a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s, or requested the pic of their food to satisfy my curiosity, I receive very little of the joy of the soon-to-be-stuffed photographer.
When a moment is captured with people enjoying their vacation, I can vicariously experience their joy and see the happiness on their faces. But there is nobody in the picture of food except the food itself. Pictures of food can look good, but are unlikely to take your breath away or force beauty into your day if you have never eaten that particular meal before. I prefer a painting of the Last Supper over a still life of fruit. Of course, there is one exception, but it took Salvatore Dali to make it happen. Add some action or people to the pic and it becomes much more interesting.
Food as Art
Most people go through their days without noticing the beauty and wonder surrounding them. They wake up, blah, blah blah, blah blah, boring, boring tedious boring, and they go to bed. Maybe they love their jobs, or their significant others, their kids, whatever floats their boats, but they do it without art. They live each day without really looking around themselves. They don’t notice the varying color of the sky, the expertise and talent of the builders and architects of their house or the buildings around them. They don’t look too closely at the lines for traffic that have been drawn a bit wavy on the road or the shoddy service they receive at the drive-through window.
But they all notice their food. They really look at it, at least when it arrives. They sit in judgement over it. They see it, they smell it, they experience it. This is true even if they are getting a coffee and a donut at the Waffle House instead of La Bernardin. My father sometimes watched the look on people’s faces when their food arrived, the look of expectation, or disappointment, or even uncertainty as the dishes were brought to the table. This is one of the rare moments of attention, true attention, in most people’s days. The food has been made for them. If they’re not careful, it might taste terrible (watch out for that hot pepper), have an obvious defect (such as an errant staple or bug), or even kill them (if they have a shellfish allergy).
It is a personal, commissioned work of art. You picked it out of a menu and decided it was your personal choice. Effort will be put in the manner in which your choice is presented to you. It has been plated in a certain way, it has been arranged for both ease of eating (not often will you find a steak carefully balanced on end), for looks based on tradition or originality, for a mixture of flavors and colors. It has been served separately from other dishes based on whether it is to entice the appetite to start a meal or top it off at the end. Some food it plated so beautifully, it seems a shame to take the first bite and mar it’s initial beauty. Perhaps it’s time to take a picture of this ephemeral experience before its inevitable consumption?
Some things on the dish aren’t to be eaten, but exist only to add to the artistic merit. A sprig of parsley or an extra small dish for cole slaw was a choice made by the chef or owner. The big red container of McDonalds french fries, the fries standing tall above the edge of the open container is an intentional choice to make them more accessible and appetizing. While the McDonalds owner does not know you personally, this container of fries was made for your enjoyment. You will smell them and taste them. You will judge if they are too salty, or slightly stale, or hot out of the frier. You are truly paying attention, at least to that first fry you put in your mouth. A few grabs later and the art has dissipated. Even a hour later and your beautiful Mexican food, with its melted cheese and refried beans, has lost its appeal. It is so easy, so natural to take out your phone, to try to preserve this very personal piece of art forever. This art that continues to excite your senses even as you make your poor, deficient, two-dimensional rendering of its essence.
Your drink arrives as you sit at the bar. It comes in a specific glass depending on whether it is a scotch on the rocks, a martini, a bit of brandy, or a Belgian beer. The beer has a head, the martini has an olive or two, perhaps a twist of lemon peel. Depending on the wine you ordered you may get a tiny desert wine glass or a mammoth one for a hearty red. When the drink arrives, it is beautiful. It has been made just for you, it is what you ordered. The bubbles float to the top of the champagne flute and you are ready to celebrate an achievement. Time for a picture?
This absurd drink has obvious artistic merit, I mean, it sits in grass!
Hat tip to The Aviary in Chicago
Curiosity in the Bizarre or Disgusting
Who doesn’t enjoy a freak show? Who doesn’t steal a glance at the unusual, the bizarre, the obscene, even the disgusting, if only to wrinkle their nose and look quickly away? Few people watching a horror movie can resist peering through their fingers covering their eyes before closing their fingers again.
When we eat at new restaurants, or in places of different cultures, we are confronted by highly unusual dishes. TV shows have been made purely on the basis of people being forced to eat food that disgusts them or even eating dishes of their own free will that the viewer finds repulsive.
This is also the basis for an entire genre of food photography that is much more desirable to the viewer of the picture than a picture of a burger. These are pictures that appeal to the curiosity of the viewer, pictures that are designed to fascinate without the viewer risking the food ever approaching his mouth. They are pictures that entice, at least in part, because they only require the sense of sight, and never have to sully the other senses. Some people enjoy eating cheese with maggots or eggs that have been buried in a yard for some time, but I prefer to see these pictures rather than enjoy the meal myself.
From some excellent place on Avenue B? in Alphabet City, NYC, 2014
Tasty, Disgusting, Satisfying, Interesting. And absolutely artistic in the presentation. Far superior for being bizarre and unusual. It is firefly squid sushi that I ate because I gave my word to JP that would eat anything the chef served me. But it’s a lot more interesting to me than to anyone who wasn’t present.
The Camera (Phone) Comes Out
If any thought at all is given to fellow diners, I assume it travels along these lines:
This’ll only take a moment and I’m sure the other people at the table can appreciate my need to capture this for posterity. How can it be rude to take a picture with my phone in front of me instead of continuing conversation and discussing our newly arrived dishes? If I’m rude, it’s only for a moment and I want my friends to see what I’m about to eat. Anyway, everyone in this place seems to be using their phones and that includes people at my table. I suck terribly as a person and should be ashamed of myself.
But if the desire for a pic stems from the desire to share life experiences with loved ones, is it really that shameful to whip out your phone? We have easier access to cameras than ever before, with the instant knowledge of the quality of each picture coupled with the ability to share it at no cost.
In my family, it was traditional to offer anything on your plate to anyone else at the table. Often a spoonful of soup, in contradiction to all good manners, was passed over the middle of the table. In our close family, it was entirely acceptable to request a taste of anyone else’s dish. Poor manners? Well, for us it was love. We loved to eat and we loved to enjoy. We loved each other and nothing could be better than sharing the joy of a well made or interesting dish. We wouldn’t stab it off someone’s plate, but a request to try a taste of an unoffered dish was entirely within the realm of acceptable conduct. At our table, this wasn’t rude. We were in our own little Rome and we did as we liked. And no, we didn’t share ice cream cones, that would have been gross(er).
Yet sometimes it is an opportunity to show off one’s sophistication or wealth. Taking a picture at Masa of a $100 appetizer plate of raw sliced kobe beef with shaved truffles on it says more than just “look at my food.” It also says, “look what I can afford, look at this luxury, look at the places I go to eat a $1000 meal.” That may not be the photographer’s intention, but it certainly has that effect. It is boastful, conceited behavior best left out of the public sphere. It is gauche to show off your million dollar toilet, even if it is truly the best seat you’ve ever owned.
Food As Disappointment
At least a small percentage of the pictures are of the low quality of the presentation. The pictures of food that don’t match the ads. The Subway footlong that’s 11 inches, or the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder that is distinctly wilted, with a greasy fingerprint on the top bun from a careless chef. This is similar to the bizarre food shots in that they do not present food to be experienced, but a show of careless quality in its many forms. Who wants to experience disappointing food? But we still look. I find it easier to commiserate with the disappointed gourmet than with yet another picture of a standard bologna sandwich.
I never review my pictures of food. With art, people, landscapes, etc. it is another matter. I am drawn to pictures of smiling people, fat and happy around a table or dirty plates and demolished goodies. I love candid shots of serious discussions over drinks, or a smiling couple cutting a wedding cake. I don’t really need that extra pic of the cake, no matter how delicious or artistic, sitting without human accompaniment. But taking food pictures can be a joy by itself, even if I rarely look back at the photos. I must remember that nobody who has seen them, unless they contain some unique curiosity, will ever give them a second glance.
I have had many musings on this subject and it was my wish to put them together in one place. As I failed utterly to examine any literature on the matter, or to consult with more than a handful of close friends and family, I am certain to have omitted many obvious and important points. Many other points are not original to me, but are the result of my theft of the thoughts I found insightful after long discussions with others. Please be forgiving for the lack of completeness on this subject, but understand I am only bringing up an array of thoughts rather than a doctoral dissertation. And, dear reader, take no offense in considering your own food pics or my judgement of them. All the pictures of food sent by my friends, family, and readers are, without exception, inspirational works of art that excite my senses and bring out the best in me.
H.R. Giger passed away on Monday and the world has lost an artist with amazing vision and quality. He produced some of the most interesting art I have ever seen. He was most famous in popular culture for the design of the alien in the movie Alien, for which he won an Academy Award.
I never met the man personally, but I did buy a few of his books of collections over the years and even owned a few that weren’t so overtly sexual that I could put them out in the open. I found his work to be brilliant in both its distinctive style and originality. You couldn’t come across one of his pieces and mistake it for the work of another talented artist.
My first introduction to his work was at the Lit Lounge, which was (is) the bar in front of the Fuse Gallery on 2nd Avenue between 5th and 6th in Manhattan. Downstairs in the grimy and wonderful depths of the bar, all the way in the back, was a table with Giger’s engravings all over it. I think it was offered for around $12,000 at the time by the owners of the bar, but I can’t remember too well. I admired it often, but the piece was damaged through use, parts of the metal flattened, the table all scraped up and covered with (removable) bar muck. It was heavily used, but absolutely beautiful.
I didn’t have the money to buy it at the time or some such excuse, but I made a point to try and see it every time I went to the bar. It was there that I was corrected and told his name is pronounced “GEE-ger.” I came back years later to find it gone. I finally found a poor picture of it online, so here it is:
Here is a part of the image:
Bizarre, unusual, amazing.
I will miss his work and the chance to meet him, but I never doubt his legacy will last in its beauty, originality, and ability to evoke interest (and sometimes horror).
May he rest in peace.
Today I travelled, so I leave you with an easy quote.
‘Remember what the poet Shakespeare said, Jeeves.’
‘What was that, sir?’
‘”Exit hurriedly, pursued by a bear.” You’ll find it in one of his plays. I remember drawing a picture of it on the side of the page, when I was at school.’
Bertie Wooster and Jeeves from Wodehouse’s Very Good, Jeeves
Dear The Future,
I am sorry for having offended you. I am sorry for my shortsighted opinions and for my stubbornness in sticking to old, worn out ideas, offensive words and phrases, and ethics that have not withstood the test of time. I am sorry for my inability to see the accepted truth and morals so undeniable in your future time. Despite how obvious they are to all in the future, I cannot easily see them from here. I apologize for failing to be in that small minority of my own time that saw the truth.
I give no excuse for not knowing better and seeing more clearly. In my own time, ignorance of the law does not excuse breaking it. But we do dictate lighter punishments for those who did not have the mens rea when they commit a crime, so I ask that I be judged with mercy for how I have lived and the words I have written. I do not beg not to be judged. Instead, I humbly ask to be judged as you would have yourselves judged by those who will undoubtedly come after you, for surely the future will see your own customs just as backward and evil as you see mine.
Matt Gold, Dandridge, TN and NY, NY, 2014
The morals and social mores of my current time and place (early 21st century USA) are vastly different from what was accepted even 1-2 centuries ago. Going back in time a thousand years or so, or switching locations, brings us to a world with dramatically different guidelines of good and evil. The determination and execution of justice is wildly different across time or distance. I anticipate it will be just as different a few centuries into the future, though I will not be around to see it.
I own pets, a dog and a couple of cats. They bring me great joy and are wonderful companions. Yet it would not be hard to see how the future may consider the keeping of animals for companionship an immoral form of slavery. It may be viewed as a barbaric relic from the past. A brutal past when people determined when animals would eat, when they could go outside, where they could go and when they had to sleep or wake up. We choose their mates based on specific physical characteristics or we remove their ability to reproduce. Perhaps I am blinded by the morals of my time.
From a more extreme perspective, we do not give our children equal rights as adults until the age of 18, even though they may be entirely capable of making decisions before then. Effectively, we do not give them rights over travel, rights over their reproductive choices, rights to vote on their own taxes, the ability to choose where they live, the right sign a contract, etc. There are many reasons I consider valid as to why this is true, but it is entirely possible that at some time in the future, the enslavement of our own children for their early life may be considered a terrible injustice.
For much of history, if you conquered people, it was your right to enslave them. Slavery was not considered an evil, but rather the just spoils of war. Today, slavery is considered to be one of the worst evils to blemish the past of mankind. In the past, intimate relationships between men and young boys was accepted. Today it is given some of the strongest punishments and it brands those who have such relationships as dangerous to society for the rest of their lives.
From the direction of what was once considered evil now being acceptable, homosexual relationships in certain past times were punishable by death. Today, many people and governments accept these relationships as equal to any other relationship and punish those who discriminate against them. The manner in which the past treated these relationships is considered monstrous. The list of the differences between what is acceptable in the past versus the present day is enormous. We should anticipate this list will always change as we step forward into the future.
Today, some words are considered inherently offensive, regardless of whether or not they were offensive at the time they were put into print. Words used to describe minorities that were accepted by all (including those minorities) in the past are no longer accepted in current speech or print. Words that had no derogatory meaning at the time have acquired negative connotations, long after the innocent authors who wrote them passed away. Books that used them are no longer considered acceptable reading for young, impressionable minds. Certain ideas or symbols are now considered to be so full of hate that they warrant expulsion from a school, lest students be exposed to them and offended by them.
I do not know what words I use, or which ideas I have, that will be considered hateful in the future. I do not know which aspects of how I live my life will be considered thoughtless, selfish, immoral, and utterly insane. But of this I am certain: that the judgement of the future on myself and my own time will be harsh. This is how every future society views the customs of the past. It may only be mellowed by the knowledge that I myself, and many of my time, could not see beyond our own customs.
If there is an interest in reading my words at some future time (one can only dream), I hope some things I have said are timeless and still speak to future readers. The best reason to put down and discard my writings is because I have nothing worthy to say. Please don’t discard them because my words and ideas are offensive. My only desire is to communicate my thoughts, to search for art, passion, humor, and insight. It is never to offend the sensibilities of my readers, though that may be the only certain byproduct. To write is to risk offense and I intend to continue writing.
If you find my writings offensive, laugh at them, laugh at yourself, and get over it. The world is a far better place when people laugh at themselves. You must laugh at what is sacred to you. You must find humor in that which you care about intensely. That which cannot survive laughter is too fragile to survive inquiry. An idea that cannot survive a bit of ribbing is nothing worthy of your time. If you love it that much, it is surely strong enough to withstand laughter.
“The final test of truth is ridicule. Very few dogmas have ever faced it and survived.”
H. L. Mencken
As I’m traveling today, I have little time to write, think, or try to entertain. Rather than leave you with this, I give to you a picture of my lunch (how boorish!) and an origami crane. Enjoy.
The crane was slightly mauled by one of the beasts in my house, but the lunch was excellent! I prefer Maruchan Ramen to Nissin Cup Noodles, but that’s mostly because I have fold memories of the Ramen I used to snack on in my teens and 20s. The Nissin brand is more flavorful and therefore more authentic. It’s not bad, but when it comes to Asian food, the less authentic the better. As far as I can tell, this goes for Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese. I think Japan may be okay, but I haven’t been there to know for sure.
Don’t think because you enjoy your local Chinese restaurant that you can eat in China. You likely can’t. My dainty, bland little American tastes quail when confronted by the real thing. I remember visiting a food court in Singapore in a very high end mall and seeing a store called “Pig Organ Soup.” All I wanted was a handful of french fries, but after seeing the pictures below the sign, I decided never to eat again.
“Everybody is a Winner!”
President Obama to children at an Easter Egg Roll at the White House
I have never heard of an Easter Egg Roll before. I only knew of the Chinese food variety, which I love dearly. Apparently this is an event for kids hosted on the White House lawn. Apparently, you roll an egg with a spoon and try to win by racing the other kids. I don’t know if there is betting or humiliation involved (or physical humor, I love physical humor), it would require a blood relation to keep my interest.
When I read a statement like our President’s above, I am always drawn to two similar quotes from The Incredibles, that awesome 2004 Pixar movie. The first is from the super fast kid who isn’t allowed to go out for sports. This is due to his overwhelming talent and likelihood of being unable to fit in when his powers are revealed.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.
The second quotes is from the villain, when he explains his motivation for killing everyone with natural super powers, then selling normal people powers equal to superheros.
Syndrome: Everyone can be super. And when everyone is super, no one will be.
I am reminded of Vonnegut’s short story, Harrison Bergeron. If you haven’t read it before, read it now, it’s super short so you can do it even if you are unmotivated.
We all know that the egg roll is a race. Unless you change the rules, there is a winner in every race. At the track (I’ve heard), you bet on the top three horses coming in with a certain order, not to pretend the limping horse in last place is the equal to the fastest.
There is pride in finishing a marathon. There can be pride in even getting off the starting post. Many people who achieve these goals are winners in their own ways for having overcome obstacles along the way. But they are not the equal of the runner who crossed the finish line first. The person who finished first was THE winner, the runner with the fastest time. No amount of cheering or distraction can take away from his domination of his opponents.
Not all movies are Best Picture and not all shots hit the bulls eye. To pretend otherwise is just an egalitarian fantasy. Let the winning child bask in the glory of his egg rolling talent! Let us encourage children to try to be the best they can be. And when they win, let them feel the elation of their success. Let’s not demean the efforts of the winner by giving gold medals to everyone.
The Ukraine doesn’t get a gold medal for failing to keep Russia out and the person who is the second place choice for the promotion doesn’t take home a bigger paycheck. It is worth striving to be first. We are not simply lucky that the USA became the strongest economic and military powerhouse the world has ever seen. Russia and the United States were not both winners of the Cold War. Germany and Japan didn’t tie for first in World War II. Past generations as well as our own have worked tremendously hard to raise ourselves to our current level. We should be proud of our efforts, not just because we tried, but because we won.
My wonderful father, a man with tremendous insight into people’s character, used to tell our family a rule of psychology. It has probably been noticed and been around for a long time, but since he brought it to our attention, I’ll give him all the credit. I think we used to call this Gold’s Rule, in honor of the Gold family (my family, thank you), though I may be confused with that other Gold’s Rule, “Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.”
It went much as follows: a disproportionate response was a fantastic indicator of lying on the part of the responder. If asked, “Did you do this?” The answer is often given as “No, I didn’t do that.” But every once in a while, the response would come back as “How dare you accuse me of such a thing!” or “I am offended you even suggest I did that!” These responses are almost certain to come from a guilty party. Not knowing the answer to such a question, but asking two people about it, bet against the one with the over-the-top reaction to the suggestion of their guilt.
In addition, I would add that facts are facts and science is science. Facts and science do not change based on who is doing a study or who is asking a question. Methods used matter, but the source of the information does not.
If a terrible person comes up with a scientific discovery, it is no less valid than that of a living saint. It can either be reproduced or it can’t. If Galileo was a bastard who watered down drinks when he bar tended (I made that up), it doesn’t mean he was wrong about the relationship between the Earth and the Sun. Fritz Haber, one of the most successful scientists at developing poison gas for Germany to use in WWI, was also the discoverer of how to synthesize ammonia, without which our farming could not support (literally) billions alive today. Haber’s process for ammonia is not a minor discovery due to the fact that he was a cretin.
And so, we come to the news today. A brand spankin’ new study says, according to the article on it, “biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.” This is in direct contradiction to a 2012 study stating that these same biofuels are 95% better on greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. I haven’t read either study, only the AP press release on it. But the article has the response included in it. It is no surprise that the biofuel industry is going after the study as invalid for a number of reasons, and this response by a billion dollar industry makes sense. This is not a disproportionate response. I will not attempt to argue who is right or wrong.
It is the government response that makes one scratch their head. The study was funded by the federal government and was published in a peer review journal, much like many such studies the government funds all the time. Since the study was just released, it is a bit early for the government to jump in with an opinion. Keep in mind, no government or bureaucracy moves quickly, ever, yet this response came the same day as the AP report of the news. A measured response would be, “We will look into this study and review its significance. As this contradicts other studies and has new information not published prior, we need to understand why these differences occurred.”
Instead, an EPA spokesman said it “does not provide useful information relevant to the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from corn stover ethanol.” That was a quick response. The research was immediately criticized by the administration as flawed. Too fast for my taste. NO useful information? None at all came from the study? Hard to believe it came through the peer review process and was published at all. Sounds a bit too much like it didn’t fit a political agenda. Not knowing the truth of the matter, the EPA response has given me reason to question the government’s attachment to scientific truth. Nothing wrong with disagreeing with a study. Something very wrong with behavior out of the ordinary.
The face of evil – Roger Smith on American Dad
I freely admit to watching cartoons with adult themes. I’m not referring to XXX adult themes or any of the Japanese hentai variety, but the more mainstream such as American Dad, Family Guy, or Futurama. The sort that children would enjoy, but adults would enjoy much more as they pick up on obscure references or sexual innuendos. I intentionally leave South Park out of the mix as I feel it is a true satire of modern society. It is better written than the others and deserves its own separate post.
My favorite characters, and also the favorites of my friends, are always the evil ones. We are drawn to Bender, Roger, and Stewie in everything they do. All are sociopaths, but none are as great as Roger. And there is no character we enjoy more than Roger. Just having him appear in a scene is enough to bring a smile to my face.
Bender and Stewie are both good at heart. Stewie will vaporize people who annoy him and Bender will plot the overthrow of the entire human race while stealing priceless jewels. But ultimately, Stewie loves Brian and goes out of his way to help from time to time. Bender, in the midst of plotting to exterminate mankind, will try to help the humans he loves escape the fate of the rest of mankind. Neither of these characters are pure in their evil. None of them approach Roger.
Roger is pure evil. He personifies all seven of the deadly sins and he does so with creativity and gusto.
In his own words:
“I’m going to make you cry and dip my cookie in your tears.”
Or, in another episode, after his Christmas sweater is complimented:
“Thanks, I totally sniped it from a guy on eBay. I not only stole the sweater, I stole his holiday spirit and that made my holiday spirit grow stronger. Because, that’s how it works, right? Like “Highlander”? There can be only one?”
We love Roger for his unabashed vileness. But we also love him because he is terribly weak. He is lazy, physically weak, an emotional wreck, and largely incompetent. He is easily wounded (emotionally), he insults all around him at every opportunity, and there is nothing redeeming about him. He never learns his lesson (awesome!), he goes to the ends of the Earth to have revenge for a perceived slight, and he betrays his friends and family at every turn. He will literally die if he is nice to people. His perfection is unblemished.
“Does this furniture polish have alcohol in it? [drinks bottle] Hmm, tastes like I might die.”