Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mission Accomplished [-Sisyphus]

Had a meeting with the Humanists before departing T&T. A heartfelt thanks to them for their insights, hospitality and arguments. Two noteworthy observations caught my attention: Trinidadians are intimately familiar with the absurdity of life on Earth, and we're only at the beginning of humanity's long [and perilous?] journey towards a species that embraces rationality before superstition. This set off a series of chain reactions, with the conclusion finally settling on some familiar ground. First thoughts, therefore, after the annual Cleansing of the Flesh come courtesy The Myth of Sisyphus.

On quite a different plane, that of method, Husserl and the phenomenologists, by their very extravagances, reinstate the world in its diversity and deny the transcendent power of the reason. The spiritual universe becomes incalculably enriched through them. The rose petal, the milestone, or the human hand are as important as love, desire, or the laws of gravity. Thinking ceases to be unifying or making a semblance familiar in the guise of a major principle. Thinking is learning all over again to see, to be attentive, to focus consciousness; it is turning every idea and every image, in the manner of Proust, into a privileged moment. What justifies thought is its extreme consciousness. Though more positive than Kierkegaard's or Chestov's, Husserl's manner of proceeding, in the beginning, nevertheless negates the classic method of reason, disappoints hope, opens to intuition and to the heart a whole proliferation of phenomena, the wealth of which has about it something inhuman. These paths lead to all sciences or to none. This amounts to saying that in this case the means are more important than the end. All that is involved is 'an attitude for understanding' and not a consolation. Let me repeat: in the beginning, at the very least.

How can one fail to feel the basic relationship of these minds! How can one fail to see that they take their stand around a privileged and bitter moment in which hope has no further place? I want everything to be explained to me or nothing. And the reason is impotent when it hears this cry from the heart. The mind aroused by this insistence seeks and finds nothing but contradictions and nonsense. What I fail to understand is nonsense. The world is peopled with such irrationals. The world itself, whose single meaning I do not understand, is but a vast irrational. If one could say just once: 'this is clear', all would be saved. But these men vie with one another in proclaiming that nothing is clear, all is chaos, that all man has is his lucidity and his definite knowledge of the walls surrounding him.

All these experiences agree and confirm one another. The mind, when it reaches its limits, must make a judgement and choose its conclusions. This is where suicide and the reply stand. But I wish to reverse the order of the inquiry and start out from the intelligent adventure and come back to daily acts. The experiences called to mind here were born in the desert that we must not leave behind. At least it is essential to know how far they went. At this point of his effort man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world. This must not be forgotten. This must be clung to because the whole consequence of a life can depend on it. The irrational, the human nostalgia, and the absurd that is born of their encounter -- these are the three characters in the drama that must necessarily end with all the logic of which an existence is capable.

The feeling of the absurd is not, for all that, the notion of the absurd.

pp. 30-2

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

So Long Suckers

Picture a wide-eyed, six-year-old boy visiting his grandfather's Port of Spain house, being raised in 1970s Toronto mind you, feet firmly planted atop the concrete half of a green fence, staring out into the street while alternately holding onto, leaning his elbows against or draping his arms overtop the 3-foot wire portion.

Mesmerized, he ignores the Caribbean sun beating down on him as a river of music and writhing costumed bodies, steelbands with their human players and means of propulsion, along with swarms of assorted others whose expected contribution apparently amounts to little more than losing themselves in the sheer mystique of the spectacle, goes thundering up the road and right past the front of the house, some holding drinks, others bottles of beer, a look of ecstasy gripping every visage, every being, as people occasionally drift over to offer words of welcome, shake his hand or run their fingers through his hair in solidarity, singing, chanting, gyrating, chipping in chaotic unison, so obviously and entirely consumed by the mad yet peaceful frenzy their glazed eyes are utterly incomprehensible to the impressionable lad as this boisterous mob, every individual equipped with an electronic device to prevent stumbling it seems, evades six-inch curbs, ditches or potholes, cascading around fire hydrants, lampposts, stop signs and parked cars as effortlessly as a sparkling stream over a pile of drab rocks.

Sadly, the relentless Trinidadian heat forces the woozy youngster indoors...

The Bill Always Comes

Remember February 2006, when a handful of innocuous cartoons sent the Islamic world spinning into a raging frenzy? Well, Charlie Hebdo, one of the French magazines that reprinted them in solidarity, has finally made it to court. The whole thing gets going Wednesday, so keep an eye out. Tuesday, Charlie Hebdo's people denounced what they said is a "medieval process." Philippe Val, head of the magazine, asked "If we no longer have the right to satire... what's left to ordinary citizens for self-defense if they can't even laugh to overcome their fears?" ...Soma?

Thankfully, people like Taslima Nasrin will be called upon to help defend Charlie Hebdo's right to free expression and satire.

Lire l'article ici.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bizarro World

My formula for a balanced budget reflects the priorities of ... keeping spending under control while making federal programs more effective. -President Bush

President George W. Bush on Monday proposed a $24-billion US increase in military spending from a Democratic-controlled Congress as part of a $2.9-trillion budget plan for the 2008 fiscal year.

The massive boost in military spending for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes billions more to fight the war in Iraq, while squeezing the rest of government — including health-care programs — to meet Bush's goal of eliminating the deficit in five years...

If the Democrats go ape-shit over this, there's only one thing I want to hear out of the Pentagon : Iraqis need the medical aid more than Americans, so suck it up and stop your belly aching... it's so much worse in France (where Le Monde newspaper is reporting slightly different figures : il a demandé 141,7 milliards de dollars de "fonds d'urgence" pour financer "la guerre contre le terrorisme" en 2008, ainsi qu'une rallonge de 93,4 milliards de dollars, en plus des 70 milliards déjà votés, pour l'année budgétaire en cours, qui se terminera le 30 septembre...) That's quite the difference.

...Speaking of bizarreries, try this one on for size :

[Ted Turner] and a marketing company have agreed to pay $2m after a "guerrilla" advertising stunt that sparked bomb scares across Boston. The city went on high alert last week, closing bridges and roads, after 38 flashing devices were discovered.

"We understand now that in today's post-September 11 environment, it was reasonable and appropriate for citizens and law enforcement officials to take any perceived threat posed by our light boards very seriously and to respond as they did," Turner said in a statement.

If Americans use "nite" for "night," would they consider using "rite" for "right"? Why not, if this is what passes for "reasonable and appropriate."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Losing My Religion

(Photo - Magnum Photos)
I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is. -Albert Camus
French smokers were told to butt out Thursday as the government put into force its ban on puffing in workplaces, schools, airports, hospitals and other "closed and covered" public places. In a country where many find it almost incomprehensible to enjoy a morning coffee without lighting up, the ban now in effect is the first phase of a new French law to eliminate smoking in most public places.
...Mais, mon dieu... Pas de fumeurs? Pas de fumeuses?!
Non, merci... Vas-t-en.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

For Dimwit Politicians

The lights of Paris dimmed for five minutes on Thursday in a nationwide "lights out" campaign, aimed at raising global awareness over global warming. During the switch-off, the power grid operator RTE observed a fall of 800 megawatts, representing just over 1% of France's total consumption. It comes a day before the release in Paris of a major report warning of humanity's role in climate change.

-BBC (Photo - AFP)

Backup Always Helps

In Belgium's Aquatopia zoo an iguana named Mozart is resting comfortably after having a penis surgically removed. According to Metro UK, "Mozart had the operation so he could walk again after suffering from an eternal erection that had put his health at risk."

Not to worry, a spokesman for the zoo said. "As male iguanas have a second penis, the operation has not affected Mozart's performance."

Pass The Ketchup

SEVERANCE, Col. - Another piece of old Colorado slipped away Wednesday night when Bruce's Bar, the rural roadhouse renowned for Rocky Mountain oysters, closed amid toasts and tears.

The bar's owner, Bruce Ruth, died in August
[and the] family decided Tuesday to close the bar that drew generations of Denver Broncos, motorcycle gangs including the Hell's Angels and the Sons of Silence, President Bush and Julia Roberts.

There's a large painting in the bar that illustrates the origins of the breaded and fried house specialty. A bull stands glaring at a knife-wielding cowboy reaching between the animal's rear legs. Call them Rocky Mountain oysters, cahones or testicles. Bruce's served about 20 tons a year...

There's a rodeo joke in there somewhere.