Archive for December 20th, 2010

The Shirt That You Wore

He was distracted by the fact that all she wore was his coat and a glimpse of yellow beads. He hadn’t noticed when she had put on the necklace. The coat was huge on her, and the sight was like finding a photograph of one woman in a frame that had always held a picture of another. Every second that it clung to her, it was exchanging auras of scent and heat and memory.

Ofelia knew. It was not totally true, but the charge could be made that once she had detected his grief she had suspected his loss, and once she had observed the tenderness with which he treated his coat and discovered the faint history of perfume on its sleeve, from that moment on she was determined to wear the coat herself.

—Martin Cruz Smith, Havana Bay

So over in Italy there has developed something of a Stink over a television ad for the Renault Twingo, which seems to be a sort of car. The ad, and the Stink, involve two women who meet at a party, and then repair to a bedroom for fun and frolic.

Apparently televised lesbians are more than Italian media can bear, because the ad has been yanked. This in a country that has several times elected as its prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a professional lecher of a particularly embarrassing kind, and seated in parliament Ilona Staller, an adult film star who appeared in hardcore porn while in office, and was noted for giving political speeches with one or more breasts exposed.

But no. Berlusconi’s media empire refused to air the Twingo ad, and other Italian outlets followed suit. The spot may be seen by Italian viewers now only via Sky, as the racist retrovert Rupert Murdoch has never been averse to lesbians, or to anything else—except, in his various news divisions, facts, truth, and sanity—so long as they might bring in a little coin.

I have seen this ad, which is offered in its entirety beyond the “furthur,” and I have to admit that I too am outraged. But not because it features lesbians. Oh no. What I don’t like is that it pretends to be about love, but is actually about theft.



Seasons Greetings

I’m not sure what I think about this one.

Apparently some people in South Korea think it’s a good idea to dress up penguins like Santa Claus and reindeer, and then set them to marching in a parade, accompanied by a human Santa who wildly throws fake snow in the air.

These festivities inaugurate the annual “Christmas Fantasy” winter festival at the Everland Amusement Park in Yangin. The penguins promenade down a street decorated with some 2 million lights, 80 Christmas trees, and showers of artificial snow. There is also a holiday-themed fireworks show, hopefully set off only once the penguins, borrowed from the city zoo, have been returned to their usual quarters.

Everland, it is said, draws some 6 million visitors a year, and is the number-two most popular non-Disney theme park in the world. Everland is presumably what you get when you knock the “N” off Neverland, and run Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys off the place.

Generally I am not a fan of dressing animals in human clothing. Judging by the various photos out there on the intertubes, however, none of the birds really seem to mind. Then again, maybe I’m no good at reading penguins. After all, they do not live as you and I: these particular penguins, known as African or “jackass” penguins, prefer to dwell in homes they have burrowed out of bird guano.

Which is why they are endangered: money-grubbing humans arrived to haul all their guano away. Now they must make do with sand, and it’s just not the same.

Humans have also run off with their eggs, finding them tasty, and have meanwhile yanked all the sardine, anchovy, and squid out of the sea, leaving the birds with little to eat. Every once in a while an oil tanker will blow, or surreptitiously clean out its tanks while rounding the Horn, thereby drenching the birds with petroleum. Now seals have shown up, and are rudely pushing the birds off their 24 little islands.

These birds are called “jackass penguins” because they emit a distinctive braying noise. Reads to me like they have a lot to bray about. As the photo above shows, they’re not very big. Plucky, though.

Everything Old Is New Again

Monism is one of those ancient ideas that has never stopped being modern. The oneness of everything and the equation, Infinity equals one, are borne out by possible constructions of elementary logic, everyday observation and modern science. Infinity is the sum total of everything. There cannot be more than one infinity. (To the riposte, “Why not?” it would have to be said that, if there were numbers beyond infinity, there would be an infinite number of them.) When we identify a single object, we can think of it as an infinite number of fractions of itself. The total number of fractions of anything thus equals the total number of fractions of everything. It is tempting to try to apply the same argument to numbers between one and infinity but, whereas the real existences of one thing and of infinite things are inescapable consequences of the existence of anything, other numbers may be no more than classificatory conveniences. When we speak of five books, five towns or five universes, we are—by comparison with the certainty with which we can speak of one and infinity—only making a working statement. Another mind will see only one work, one conurbation or one cosmos. Though many philosophers have tried, none has ever come up with decisive arguments in favour of the reality (reality, that is, distinct from existence as appearances or terms) of any numbers except one and infinity. Modern developments in scientific thought and experiments on the connectedness of quantum phenomena by “superluminal” communication—apparently “faster” than light and beyond the reach of local causation—have convinced practitioners of “new physics” that the unity of the cosmos is demonstrable. A world has been revealed in which the parts “are seen to be in immediate connection, in which their dynamical relationships depend, in an irreducible way, on the state of the whole system (and indeed on that of the broader systems in which they are contained, extending ultimately and in principle to the entire universe). Thus one is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the classical idea of analysability of the world into separately and independently existent parts.

In the early years of the twentieth century, the discovery that mass and energy are interchangeable eliminated one of the most conspicuous distinctions on which traditional pluralism rested. In the 1920s, realization that the sub-atomic particles tracked by modern science are known only through the effects of their interaction created the possibility of an interconnected image of the cosmos. “Inseparable quantum interconnectedness of the whole universe” became imaginable in 1964, when JS Bell explained a long-nagging experimental anomaly by suggesting that two particles in a single system, however immense the distances by which they are separated, will continue to behave as a system by means of instantaneous connections. Quantum science did not authorize scientists to be mystical, but it did encourage mysticism.

Thus the monist universe, worshipped in so many cultures in the first millennium BC and accessible to some of the earliest human minds we know about, is still intelligible and still upheld.

—Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Truth: A History And A Guide For The Perplexed

When I Worked

December 2010
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