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Semiformalishmaybe

We're not done with you yet, Mister...

One of the things I've grown a bit tired of in much hollywood faire is flat characters with binary moralities. I was thinking about "Dr Horrible's Sing-along Blog" recently - I think a lot of what I generally like about his works is that the characters don't (usually) fit this - value-ambiguity/diversity helps make characters feel more real in that they can differ from each other at a deeper level - Hitchcock's characters may have a lot of individualism, but in the end they tend to be very polar in motivation, which means that character development tends to be very convergent in virtue. While the Firefly movie sucked on this front (it being much more hollywood than the TV show), most things I've seen from Joss have more interesting development. I particularly like the regret at the end of DrH - the main character starts with a pairing of an incoherent combination of anarchist criticisms of society/authoritarian leanings and a schtick of an "evil identity" with self-serving intent. The regret at the end of the film after moving forward with the schtick and giving up on the normal forms of fulfillment (the love interest) after that avenue is closed would be considered a "failed redemption story" from simpler perspectives - it is a form of character development though. I wonder how often it comes up that people live according to principles that don't fit well with human needs, and have that feeling of loss (either way) when they're forced to give one side up decisively - that feeling of helplessness as one watches the other path(s) move into the distance, the occasional false sureness one projects to others to attempt to reassure oneself. For someone who is honest enough with themself and has a good memory, these pains/regrets yield a slow trickle of sand in one's gears..

Rereading some Zizek, there's much to say for his idea that much grief happens before loss, that people "kill their object of loss a second time", once before the loss in their fear of becoming less attached to it and secondly when it is actually lost.

I wonder if it is this fascination with human character and perspectives that in its debased form explains why some people like watching Jerry Springer (and possibly "reality tv") - the desire for human complexity, seeking out new mental primitives that help us understand what we are and what potentials are present in all of us. Presumably the more such complex/different things we see, the more tools we have for a good look in the mirror, as well as the more we have for understanding others and sharing these models of people/personhood with others.

I'm not sure when I found that I'm just as fascinated with this type of stuff as things that are presently more squarely in the sciences - I suspect it trickled down from an interest in psychology, which came from my strong/persistent interest in philosophy that started in youth. Picking up new intellectual interests (even those as presently non-convergent as this) is something I think people should in general do as they age, if they're living well. Kind of like picking up new musical interests... I wonder if someone would end up with different interests in the end if their first musical love were something like Flamenco music rather than Classical - are evolving tastes more convergent or divergent?

Verdict on "Amy's Paneer Tikka" vegetarian microwave dinners - about as good as what you'd expect of a mediocre indian restaurant - worth the price and fairly filling, but not up to India Garden standards (which I think is good-not-great on the scale of Indian food).

I just realised today is 11 September, which is/will be some kind of national day of mourning. I really don't like how the media and most people interpret it - most people refuse to acknowledge that there is a coherent, sane, non-cowardly worldview behind the attack, out of discomfort with not saying anything stronger than that we oppose that worldview and need to subdue or eradicate it because it suggests the same be done to us. It seems that everyone's holding different scorecards/profiles for who's in the struggle too, so they can avoid the complexities inherent in all the perspectives and/or take advantage of it to advance other agendas and/or avoid looking too nondistinct from an important player they've decided is "the enemy". A good understanding must admit (at least) the following elements as different from each other (regardless of temporary alignments):

  • Islamic Theoprimitivism - E.g. Taliban
  • Islamic Clerical Theocracy - One of the sets of ideas struggling in Iran
  • Islamic Democratic/Republic Theocracy (those advocating a model with both theocratic elements and representative elements) - One of the dominant perspectives and the implemented model in Iran
  • Islamic Monarchy (not exactly a philosophy but a force) - e.g. Saudi Arabia, Syria
  • Mainstream normative Islam
  • Liberal western Islam - The form it tends to take in integrated communities in Europe, Canada/US, and in a somewhat different form Turkey. Expatriate Iranis might be lumped into this with some mis-ease
  • Culturally-Islamic Autocracies - e.g. Egypt, some other parts of the Maghreb, Pakistan, formerly Iraq
  • Christian Democratic/Republic Theocracy - Only a force in the United States
  • Neoconservativism - A perspective that historically has been influential in Washington in the US but exists elsewhere. More principled than most people admit
  • American Military-Industrial Complex and Big Oil
  • Western Multicultural Liberalism - which makes pretensions to an absolute morality and "a true nature of Islam/religion" in order to condemn the attacks
  • Western Enlightenment Liberalism - which I hope is generally honest enough to say "we oppose them because we must" without further pretension
  • Zionism - multifaceted, but often beneath the excuses is the "they're usually Arabs and they oppose the existence of what we made/align ourselves with"
  • Hindus
  • Non-aligned countries - Latin American countries, China, etc, each of which has their own perspective on the matter derived from culture and leadership
  • Russian leadership - Which is very pragmatic, but also has a long history in the region
Plus the Sunni/Shia and racial divides in Islamic society, the general European (particularly French) regrets over past colonisation/domination on the effort, crusades, and all sorts of other relevant history as well as the varieties of identities people have taken on and the national/religious/ethnic pride that people have for those various ideas.

It would be fantastic if what had started after 11 September 2001 (apart from the efforts to capture bin Laden, which I believe were fully justified on many accounts in that war and attempts (however short-lived) to install a central government) was a period of education of the American public (via TV?) on American and European history relating to the Islamic world, discussion of and elaboration on the above factions and their interests and how our positions and actions and theirs lead to conflict, and even if the "what" that will happen is largely fixed, a solid rationale taking all that into account explaining the "why" of American and European responses. Honesty, humility, willingness to admit mistakes of the past (Iran?), strategic necessities, and a way to understand everyone's position without losing our own. My hopes are, of course, much too high.

"They're evil". This is the level of American political discourse. "Bring it on". Indian restaurants with windows smashed in (many of whom were Sikh or Hindu and whose owners just had a turban and a "funny-sounding name"). In the end, the war has become unpopular, although not for the right reasons - simply because of the narrow self-interest/pain in seeing American bodies continue to be shipped home without sufficiently convincing feelings of some kind of victory. It is this blindness, ignorance, and lust that enabled many of the most pointless wars of humanity - those like the Japanese invasion of China rather than the (actually fairly pragmatic) Iraqi invasion of Iran.

Oh well.


"I liberate your people's fate, spoke the burning bush
But the song of beasts, drown their oil-soaked teeth
Their dollar is mighty and true
Now the eagle soars the sky over refugee and child
And to all there is no end, another day in perfect hell"
  • -- Flogging Molly, "Screaming at the Wailing Wall"

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    It would be just as easy to identify with and sing the song of any of those actors as the one we're singing, and no we can't all get along. I suspect few people really have listened to songs that arn't theirs (except for the deep multiculturalists, who have decided to become confused zookeepers). Yay humanity.



    I seem to be in urgent need of shopping for clothes.

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