Lefty Leibowitz] CHERNOBYL JOURNAL
Check out Time Suess's incredible photos of the Chernobyl zone of exclusion. Amazing stuff. Click here.
[01_25_06 L.B. Deyo] TOP 50
Popular Mechanics has posted its list of the Top 50 Inventions of the Past 50 Years. One of them is the TV remote control. Check it out.
[10_13_05 L.B. Deyo] THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD
In these troubled times, it's nice to know progress remains alive. Never doubt that your friends at Jinx Worldwide Headquarters have the situation in hand and your best interests at heart. We've been saying it for almost ten years now: Jinx is watching you.
So it gives me very great pleaure to announce our latest breakthrough. Jinx multimedia has a new website for a new era. A complete facelift, of course, and plenty of new portfolio items for your perusal. Take a look and let me know what you think, if you please. Jinxmd.com.
[10_06_05 L.B. Deyo] WE ARE DOOMED. DOOMED.
In the second year of his first term, Bill Clinton declared "The era of big government is over." For a moment it seemed that we might have a national consensus on our hands. The Republicans had always talked up smaller government, and now the leader of the Democrats was signing on.
More than a decade later, we stand in the ruins of that hope. President Bush's $200 Hurricane Katrina Relief package is only the latest burst in a seemingly inexhaustible frenzy of spending, Federal expansion, and centralization.
The Hurricane itself, of course, has been taken as a repudiation of small-government thinking. The reliably irritating Gerhard Schroeder chimed in recently to this effect, as have countless editorials in the United States and around the world. A great many loud persons, eager to blame the present administration, blamed the president's war budget and tax cuts for squeezing out domestic spending and leaving no money for the levies of New Orleans.
What vain, childish ignorance! And if only it were true. If only the domestic budget had been squeezed, choked and strangled!
In fact, under Bush, the budget of the United States government, excluding Iraq spending, has increased by 35.7 percent, the highest rate in 40 years. The discretionary budget of the United States, again excluding the war's $200 billion expenditures, has never been remotely so huge as it is now.
And it is huge. Monstrously, impossibly, hideously huge. Far bigger than the human mind can grasp (how can we conceive of numbers in the trillions?). The great physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that the term "astronomical" should be replaced with "governmental," since very large numbers turned up more in government spending than in astronomy. Our government is the most expensive thing in history, by far. Much of it is borrowed, most of it is wasted. One can scarecely conceive of a more voracious destroyer of wealth and resources. The deficit has been shrinking over the past couple years, but our national debt is $7.8 trillion dollars; we spend almost two percent of our Gross Domestic Product on interest payments towards this debt, while the debt itself continues to grow apace. Meanwhile, Democrats excoriate every timid suggestion Republicans offer to cut programs, and Republicans themselves keep thinking of new ways to spend.
The old arrangement, where the stingy Republicans tried to cut spending and the generous Democrats tried to give money away to everyone in sight, was far from perfect, but it created a kind of balance, an average between two extremes. No longer. This is the era of "big government conservatism." Both sides are running as hard as ever, but now they're all running in the same direction: away, with our money.
[08_25_05 L.B. Deyo] NINJALICIOUS, RIP
Our friend Jeff, better known in the urban exploration world as Ninjalicious, passed away last night. The cancer got him.
Jeff was about as close to a leader as urban exploration ever had; in a community notorious for infighting, backbiting, envy and scorn, Jeff was one of the few things everyone agreed on. Everybody liked him, everybody admired him, everybody loved his magazine, Infiltration. Jeff put out Infiltration with his wonderful wife, Liz, and it is the undisputed bible of urban explorers literally throughout the world. No matter how popular and influential the Infiltration web site got, Jeff never stopped putting out the print version of his magazine. Each issue was thoughfully planned, beautifully designed, and elegantly written. And Jeff never, ever neglected to send me a free copy.
That's what Jeff was like. A lot of people, including me, saw him as a kind of leader, but he wasn't the kind of leader who gives orders or struts around. He was the kind of leader who, through humble, serious work makes himself an example.
The essence of Jeff's personality, as it appeared to me, was this: He lived. We all tell ourselves again and again that life is short, that every moment is precious, that life is meant to be experienced fully, as an adventure. But Jeff actually lived that way. Most of us, basically, live at home. Jeff lived out there: He spent his free time exploring. Usually he was just exploring the city where he lived, the city of Toronto, but he went out with as much passion and determination for discovery that he would have brought to a hunt for El Dorado.
And not content merely to enjoy life, to live it fully, he made it his mission to share this enjoyment with others. He wasn't just having fun; he was teaching us how to have fun. That's what Infiltration was all about. A lot of urban explorers consider themselves part of an underground elite. They jealously conceal their activities, and look at newcomers with grim suspicion. Not Jeff. His message to would-be explorers was, join us. We're having fun, and we want you to have fun to.
Fun. That's the word Jeff used. In Invisible Frontier and Jinx magazine, Lefty and I have spent a lot of time trying to explain why we do this urban adventure stuff. We wrote about the primal urge to explore, the grand tradition of discovery, our emulation of heroes we could never hope to resemble but always strived to live up to. Jeff never struggled with these explanations. He said urban exploration was fun, and that was why he did it. That was why he thought you should do it too. Well, he was right. And I'm going to celebrate his memory, first chance I get, by getting out there and exploring. Just for the fun of it.
[08_07_05 Lefty Leibowitz] New Urban Exploration DVD
I just got a great new urban exploration DVD in the mail entitled "Echoes of Forgotten Places". If you like beautiful photographs and video footage of urban decay and industrial ruins, I'd recommend checking it out. Click here to visit the site.
[07_12_05 L.B. Deyo] QUOTE OF THE DAY
Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is a scoundrel.
[07_07_05 L.B. Deyo] CAN WE WIN?
This morning's atrocities in London raise an uncomfortable question, a question asked less and less these past few years. What, if anything, can we do to defeat Al Qaeda and its sister groups?
We unpack this question to find other questions nested within.
[05_16_05 L.B. Deyo] BASE CLOSINGS
As always, the recommendation that certain military bases be closed has raised a cry from the affected communities. The familiar complaint is that local economies will suffer without the business generated by the presence of military bases. Yesterday I heard a man on NPR warning that he may have to relocate his store if the base in his town is closed. Predictably, the Congressional representatives of affected communities are already gearing up to oppose the base closings.
An old political saw says, "Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury and bankrupt the nation." The interested opposition of communities to base closings is a perfect example of this principle. No one wants to see his local economy suffer, but consider the argument against base closings, in plain English: The United States military, at a cost of billions of dollars per year, should maintain bases it doesn't need in order to protect local businesses from having to relocate. The implication, bizarre though it sounds, is that the military is not a warfighting body but a social welfare program. In essence, this is the assertion that taxpayers throughout the country should subsidize local businesses via the Pentagon budget. Nothing could be more absurd.
[05_16_05 L.B. Deyo] BRIDE OF THE MONSTER
[05_16_05 L.B. Deyo] ORWELL ON STYLE
From George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language. Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.Here it is in modern English:
Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
[02_13_05 L.B. Deyo] THE DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE
Please don't tell me you've never read Citizen Chris. Please. For pity's sake, please don't tell me that.
[02_10_05 L.B. Deyo] AND DO NOT SAY 'TIS SUPERSTITION
My view of nature is this: The universe is physical. Nothing non-physical exists. There is no magic, no spirituality, no divinity, no witchcraft, ESP, fortune-telling. Nothing is supernatural. Only what is real exists.
I'm frequently asked to justify this position. Many people describe it as close-minded, cynical, etc.; they urge me to admit that there's more to the world than meets the eye. Here's my response.
To be skeptical is not to be close-minded. On the contrary, healthy skepticism requires an ability to consider new evidence and modify one's views when that evidence conflicts with them. If I were to see any scientific evidence for anything supernatural, I would modify my views immediately. My mind is open to new evidence.
But my mind is not open to unsubstantiated claims, declarations of faith, appeals to emotion, folk tales, mythology, ancient authorities, unsupported anecdotes, or any other unscientific method of persuasion. As Carl Sagan wrote, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." If a person tells me he rides in UFOs or reads minds, he has to give me some serious evidence; his story, if true, would fundamentally alter our whole scientific view of the worldit would be an epochal discovery akin to the discovery of fire. It's unreasonable for him to ask me just to take his word for it.
Why do I feel the need to be so stringent? This is the heart of the matter, and the reason I'm writing this.
I believe human beings evolved accidentally and without design. I believe our brains, while sophisticated, evolved to perform tasks of survival and community. Our brains are very good at emotional communication, pattern recognition, and a host of other tasks. What they are not so good at, what they did not need to be good at for us to survive, is understanding the world.
We are credulous beings. We are very poor at evaluating evidence. We are easily persuaded by authority, by personal experience, by vivid examples, and a whole catalog of fallacious reasoning.
For this reason, it was necessary, after thousands of years of civilization, for man to invent logic. And it took another two millennia for man to invent science as we now know it. These tools for the evaluation of evidence are so precious because they are so contrary to our normal styles of thinking. When we practice science and logic, we struggle with our own natural intellectual tendencies. Look at a list of logical fallacies: What you'll see is a description of human rationality. Being intelligent and rational is useless without the discipline to overcome our native weaknesses.
We have only a few decades to perceive and learn about the universe. After that, we revert to non-existence, and our opportunity has passed. During our lives, then, we have a compelling interest to learn as much about the world as we can, and to understand it as clearly as possible. Shall we abandon our best methods for this, and let our vision be obscured by fantasy? Shall we advance into reality, in all its austere and frightening majesty, or retreat into the childlike safety of pleasant dreams?
To miss our chance to see the world as it really is would be a terrible waste.
[01_24_05 L.B. Deyo] HAMILTON & JEFFERSON
You can't really apply modern political labels to the founding fathers; the current left-right dichotomy didn't really exist in those days. But it's interesting to examine the founders' views and see how they line up with modern political ideology, particularly since modern politicians of all parties claim the founders their authorities.
One of the central clashes among the founders was the rivalry of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. These two men were notable for their radically different visions for the United States. Today liberals are more likely to claim Thomas Jefferson and conservatives Alexander Hamilton, neither claim is universal or uncontroversial.
First, though Jefferson was liberal in his republican vision of broad popular sovereignty, he was an outspoken advocate of limited government. Jefferson offered a kind of proto-socialist vision of an agrarian rural society untainted by banking and commerce, but his vision was dependent on slavery for its realization. Jefferson himself could never have lived his idyllic yeoman farmer's existence without the support of his hundreds of slaves. Yet today he's the symbol of the libertarian Cato Institute (perhaps because of his belief that the government that governs best governs least).
Hamilton had a conservative plan for the country's economy, one based on trade, banking, and bustling cities. But he was no free-marketer; he rejected Adam Smith's laissez-faire model for David Hume's government-regulated economy. And though Hamilton was a staunch lifelong abolitionist, he was not a libertarian: He favored a strong, centralized government with broad powers over the states and the people.
Another difference was one of temperment. Jefferson, who sat out the Revolutionary war and had enjoyed a sheltered childhood, was fascinated by populist violence; he supported the French Revolution long after it devolved into a meat grinder, and famously claimed the tree of liberty should be watered periodically with the blood of patriots. Hamilton, who grew up in the hellish violence of the slave-holding West Indies and fought in the bloodiest actions of the Revolutionary War, despised mob violence and favored peaceful transfers of power by philosophical aristocrats.
[01_16_05 L.B. Deyo] THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS?
I've learned a new end-of-the-world scenario.
According to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, Yellowstone National Park is actually the mouth of an underground volcano. That's why all the geysers-there are more geysers there than in the entire rest of the planet combined. In fact, it's the world's largest active volcano, by far: It's eight thousand feet deep and its mouth is the whole park (2.2 million acres). If it erupted, it would spew out enough ash to cover New York State to a depth of twenty-seven feet. That's also enough to blot out the sun for about seven years, which would suffice to kill all the plants and most of the animals, and freeze or starve just about every human being on earth.
Here's the best part: The volcano has been active for 36 million years, and in that time it's erupted an average of once every 600,000 years. The last time it blew up was 630,000 years ago. That means it's due right now. And if it erupted, there would probably be no warning at all.
[12_27_04 L.B. Deyo] DISASTER
The earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean and its consequent tidal waves comprise one of the worst natural disasters in human history. Estimates of the dead are now running as high as fifty thousand. Watching in horror from thousands of miles away, we feel powerless to help. But we're not: We can provide desperately needed support to the relief organizations on the ground right now by donating our spare dollars. Please consider giving to the International Red Cross/Red Crescent here.
[09_07_04 L.B. Deyo] THE MASSACRE
Editor's note: The following is adapted from a message from Jinx Enforcer Brain Evanchik.
The massacre of children, parents, and teachers in Beslan, Russia was a worse atrocity than the the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
My wife and I have made a donation to help the victims and survivors through moscowhelp.org, an organisation that is linked to from the Russian embassy's website, russianembassy.org.
We urge you to pass on the word of this organisation to everyone you know, and to donate yourselves.
Those who are on the right side in the war against the terrorists are not asked to assist, they are obligated to do so.
[08_04_04 L.B. Deyo] FASCISTS!
One of the great weasel words in politics is "fascism." George Orwell famously argued that by the late 1940s "fascism" had ceased to have any specific meaning beyond "something undesirable." The latest redefinition comes from Robert Kennedy, Jr., who wrote, "communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business."
Does this definition of fascism hold up under the most casual scrutiny? Strictly speaking, there have only been two fascist governments: Franco's Spain and Mussolini's Italy. Mr. Kennedy also chooses to include Nazi Germany, so we will too. Now ask yourself–were these countries' governments controlled by corporations? Were Franco and Mussolini merely puppets of their major department store chains, coal companies, and garment manufacturers? Can you imagine Adolf Hitler cowering before a group of automobile corporation C.E.O.s and saying, "Yes, sirs! You want us to invade Poland so you can sell more cars? Whatever you say!"
As absurd as this idea is, it really differs only slightly from the most popular conception of fascism, which imagines it to be a kind of extreme capitalist philosophy. Actually, fascism was an anti-capitalist ideology; it was intended by Mussolini (who invented it) to be an alternative to socialism but equally pro-worker and anti-business. His economic theory was, as the great Michael Malice pointed out in a recent debate, a syndicalist system under which labor unions and trade federations used strikes and direct action to control corporations. This is about as far from "control of government by corporations" as you can get. Mr. Kennnedy won't let a few facts stand in the way of his arguments, of course. But now and then it's refreshing to go back and look at the facts anyway.
[07_12_04 L.B. Deyo] HAMILTON
Jinx officer Michael Malice has a thing or two to say about Alexander Hamilton, not to mention the New York Post. Be advised.
[07_12_04 L.B. Deyo] DIONYSIUM 2
Archives of the first and second Dionysium meetings are online at Dionysium.com.
[07_04_04 L.B. Deyo] THE 4th
"We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Happy Independence Day.
[06_07_04 L.B. Deyo] THE LEGACY
"In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth--a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us." –Soviet Dissident Natan Sharansky (Via Best of the Web)
[06_06_04 L.B. Deyo] ADIEU
Ronald Reagan, R.I.P.
[05_27_04 L.B. Deyo] DIONYSIUM LAUNCH
The Dionysium, Austin, Texas' answer to the Athenaeum, will hold its first monthly meeting Wednesday, June 2, 9:00pm at Room 710. The program includes a lecture by L.B. Deyo, a declamation by Buzz Moran, a debate ("Resolved: Philosophy is Dead"), and the musical stylings of Maestro Graham Reynolds. Don't miss it.
[04_12_04 Lefty Leibowitz] WALKING AROUND
Our amigo Silk Friedman has just put together this online guide to New York's ethnic neighborhoods: walkingaround.com. Ignore at your own peril.
[03_01_04 L.B. Deyo] THE SEARCHABLE FRONTIER
Amazon dot com now offers a searchable Invisible Frontier. Check out how many times the name"Lefty" is used. Who is this "Lefty?"
[02_29_04 L.B. Deyo] SATURDAY NIGHT TELEVISION
If you're in the New York area the evening of Saturday, February 28 and near a television set, consider watching "Jane's New York" at seven pm on WNBC Channel 4. It's about the New York underground, and Lefty and I will appear.
Update: If you missed the broadcast, you can catch it Monday, March 1st at noon Eastern Time on the WNBC website.
Update: Okay, the *&@#%! web cast doesn't work too well. Or at all. If anybody's able to make it work, please let me know.
[02_29_04 L.B. Deyo] THE WORD IS OUT
The Dionysium is coming to Texas.
[02_19_04 L.B. Deyo] ACHINGLY FUNNY
My man Buzz recommended the comic Achewood to me recently, and I read every strip in one day. May I recommend it to you?
[02_10_04 L.B. Deyo] BY THE WAY
I'm in Texas.
[02_ 04_04 L.B. Deyo] GOOD GRIEF!
Is Charlie Brown an existentialist?
[01_ 27_03 L.B. Deyo] HOLY COW
I'm moving to Texas.
[12_ 18_03 Lefty Leibowitz] GOOD NEWS FOR NATIONAL SECURITY, BAD NEWS FOR URBAN EXPLORERS
From this week's New York Times Magazine cover story, The Year in Ideas: Homeland Security Neighborhood Watch.
[12_ 12_03 L.B. Deyo] FROM THE AGE OF DOUBLETHINK–GREETINGS!
Lots of activity on ThoughtCrime lately.
[12_ 12_03 L.B. Deyo] THEY KILL FOR MONEY
Ten years ago a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem and no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-team.
[12_ 08_03 L.B. Deyo] MORE JINX RADIO
Another Jinx story on WNYC radio. Listen here, now.
[12_ 01_03 L.B. Deyo] CHUCK PALAHNIUK AMOCK
Some urban explorers have told me they enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. His recent adventures in the Portland underground may interest them.
[11_ 19_03 L.B. Deyo] CONTEST RESULTS
The winners of the Jinx Urban Exploration Challenge 2003 will be announced Wednesday, January 7 at the Jinx Athenaeum Society.
[11_ 19_03 L.B. Deyo] GOTHAM GIRLS
Lefty's roller derby league is blowing up in the pages of New York magazine. It's all about "roller skates, violence, and women." But isn't everything?
[11_ 18_03 L.B. Deyo] AN IDEA PUSHED TO ITS LOGICAL CONCLUSION
Some say the "extreme sports" phenomenon has gone too far. Others are proving the opposite: That the full potential of the concept is only now being realized. Case in point: Extreme ironing. [Thanks to Steve Duncan for the link.]
[11_ 11_03 L.B. Deyo] WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHAMPION
Many are called, but few are chosen. [Via k10k.]
[11_ 10_03 L.B. Deyo] JINX MUSIC
Lefty and I will perform tonight (Monday, 10 November) at Pete's Candy Store with Kyle Wills and The Teenage Prayers. Show starts at 9pm. I'm singing, Lefty's playing his pedal steel guitar. Technically we haven't rehearsed.
Update: The verdict on the show is in. "Very Impressive by karaoke standards." – Todd Seavey.
[11_ 06_03 L.B. Deyo] ABANDONED ASYLUMS OF NEW ENGLAND
This is a great day for lovers of urban exploration photography. John Gray and Mark Gerrity have released their book Abandoned Asylums of New England. It's a haunting collection of photos shot in the ruined corridors of Danvers, Foxboro, Grafton, Metropolitan, Norwich, Rutland Heights, Taunton, and Worcester hospitals. Layered over the astonishing architectural decay is a veneer of broken glass, rust, peeled paint and indoor snow drifts. Equally striking are the artifacts of the buildings' former uses: sinks and basins; heaps of smashed television sets; church pews; sick beds and gurneys; bathtubs and barber chairs; blood vials; mortuary cabinets; operating theaters with light fixtures and hydraulic beds; and an upright piano. Highly recommended.
[11_03_03 L.B.Deyo] WORST EVER?
Check these album covers out and decide for yourself.
[11_03_03 L.B.Deyo] DISCOVERY
"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust
[10_28_03 L.B.Deyo] LIMBO
There ought to be a word for the limbo we occupy when we wait for people to return our calls. For weeks–months–I've been on hold, impotently sweating out the time until my latest message is returned. These are not trivial matters, but potentially life-changing decisions in the hands of persons whom I dread to harass further. Every day, every hour I fight off the urge to call or write and say, "Well? What's it going to be? Are we going to make something happen here, or am I up the creek?" I feel like the teenage girl of legend, waiting beside her silent telephone, knowing everything depends on the call that may never come. Curse you, Alexander Graham Bell!
[10_23_03 Lefty Leibowitz] PIT BULL IDITAROD
You will all be glad to know that, along with the new winter's chill, comes the arrival of another season of pit bull sled dog racing. Anyone who wants to meet me in Prospect Park with a dog, a harness, and a skateboard/sled will learn the bitter taste of defeat after racing against the mighty Champ.
[10_23_03 L.B. Deyo] WAVE HILL
The Wave Hill reading was a great success. It was our very first public reading for Invisible Frontier, and the reception couldn't have been kinder. We offer our thanks to attendees Todd Seavey & family, Pollyn, Anna, Emily, and David Sergenian, as well as Susan Pliner and the Wave Hill staff and visitors. I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful facility, and to the next Hearthside Reading.
[10_21_03 L.B. Deyo] THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED
Five minutes ago I walk out of the bodega. I've just bought a bottle of Snapple. I'm wearing my Mets jersey.
A bum sitting on the sidewalk says, "Make sure you go for the Yankees, not the Mets."
Distracted, I hit my wrist against the rear view mirror of a parked car. My Snapple bottle smashes to the ground.
The bum says, "That's what happened to the Mets."
[10_16_03 L.B. Deyo] TIME TO RETIRE?
Our Wave Hill reading is listed in the New Yorker. Now what?
[10_16_03 L.B. Deyo] BAD BOY 4 LIFE
My dog is as insane as I am. If I come home late and disturb his sleep, he marks me as an intruder. Peeling back his lip, he braces into a roaring crouch. "Presto, quiet!" I command him, but in vain. Even as I stare into his bleary eyes, he barks and snaps like a hound possessed. He doesn't know his master from Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy.
"It's me!" I insist.
"Woof! Woof! Ohhhh, woof!" comes the reply.
[10_14_03 L.B. Deyo] WHAT KIND OF NUTBAG AM I?
I honestly have no idea why anyone would call me a "Right Wing nutbag." Perhaps because I have a dislike of Marxism, a dislike expressed in my harsh words for Adbusters, Edward Said, International A.N.S.W.E.R., etc. If disliking Marxism makes you a Right Wing nutbag, then we know what to call Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jr, Scoop Jackson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Valclev Havel, Lech Walesa, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Joseph Lieberman, Winston Churchill, Daniel Patrick Moynahan, and the Dalai Lama.
[10_14_03 L.B. Deyo] IN DEFENSE OF CONTROVERSY
Just received a reaction to yesterday's reader email:
I was disheartened to see the posted email which referred to you as a "right wing nutbag." Whatever happened to the idea of a loyal opposition? To the idea that thoughtful, reflective individuals may see the world differently, yet still hold dear the same underlying values? Instead anyone adhering to a world view not commensurate with that of of one's peers is to be held beneath contempt and ridiculed.
[10_14_03 L.B. Deyo] FULL MOON OVER THE HILL COUNTRY
In some cities, history seems alive and present. Walk through Boston, or Montreal, and you see the past side-by-side with the present. In other places, you'd never know the past had ever happened.
Texas has a strong respect for history, but I lived in Austin for five years and literally never heard anyone mention the Comanche Indians. Remarkable, because the Comanches ruled the Hill Country, where Austin now stands, until well into the late 19th Century. Nor were they to be trifled with. They were, as Robert A. Caro writes in his Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power,
...masters of human torture for its own sake; many Hill Country families saw with their own eyes–and the rest heard about–the results of Comanche raids: women impaled on fenceposts and burned; men staked out to die under the blazing sun with eyelids removed, or with burning coals heaped on their genitals. Many women captured by the Comanches were raped, and afterward they might be scalped but left alive-so the Comanches could hold red-hot tomahawks against their naked skulls. For the Hill Country, the full moon-"The Comanche Moon"-meant terror.The terror didn't end there. The Texas Rangers repaid the ferocity with interest. The Rangers betrayed their charge as lawmen and became killers. Instead of pursuing justice, they exterminated the Comanche without mercy or reprieve, slaughtering women and children in their beds. Today few remember the crimes of the Texas Rangers, and no one fears the Comanche Moon.
[10_13_03 L.B. Deyo] THANKS A LOT
Here's an email from a reader:
Dear "Officer" L.B.,
[10_13_03 L.B. Deyo] SPORTS
"I hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense." –H.L. Mencken.
[10_13_03 L.B. Deyo] GOTHAM
[10_13_03 L.B. Deyo] STUBBORN WORDS
In The Elements of Style, Oliver Strunk cautions against the use of slang. "Prefer the standard to the offbeat," he advises, for the offbeat dates itself. Slang terms disappear as quickly as they appear. Or as he puts it, "By the time this paragraph sees print, psyched, nerd, ripoff, dude, geek, and funky will be the words of yesteryear..." The paragraph first saw print in 1935.
[10_12_03 L.B. Deyo] THE LIFE OF THE MIND
Mental disorders are in certain respects preferable to physical disorders; they are never contagious and not usually life-threatening. Yet diseases of the mind offer cruel little twists of their own.
First, they are very difficult to understand, and therefore to treat. No other system in all the known universe is remotely so complex as the human brain; some neuroscientists have predicted man will never understand the brain, that we literally lack the brain-power for the job. As it stands, most psychological illness is treated by a scattershot approach of highly disparate therapies, including counseling regimens and drugs whose effects are dimly understood and almost ungrounded in theoretical basis. A great many severe conditions have never been cured or satisfactorily treated.
Second, mental illness frequently renders the patient unable to grasp his own condition and unwilling to seek treatment. Aggravating this fact is the inherent evil of the psychological disorder: it manifests itself as behavior. Psychology is properly the study of human behavior (as opposed to the study of the mind or the spirit) because it is through behavior that the mind is expressed. One cannot be insane merely by having insane thoughts; an insane person is insane through his actions. Such actions are alienating and anti-social. They isolate the affected person from the support of others, a support enjoyed by most persons who are physically ill. One may feel compassion for a schizophrenic, an autistic, or a severe depressive, but it is very difficult to love him, and harder to desire his company.
Every person must be held responsible, and hold himself responsible, for his actions; this is the standard applied by the law, and by all just systems of ethics and morality. Yet for each of us there are moments when our actions seem divorced from our will. As simple a thing as yielding to a temptation can make us uncomfortably aware of the limits of self-control. Did I want to eat that piece of cake? I told myself not to eat it, yet ate it anyway. Which was my true desire? I was of two minds. For the mental patient, such moments must be horribly common. Like a man waking up from sleep-walking, the mental patient feels alarmed by actions he never intended, yet which he himself has committed. If he wants any hope of clinging to his humanity, he must own up to his worst misdeeds as forthrightly as if he had done them in sound mind.
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