Monday, November 30, 2009

The Drug War Requires a Police State

Interesting thought experiment by Kevin Carson considering how the War on Drugs would fare in a society in which the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution were respected according to their plain meaning and spirit. "Not well" is the short version.

Carson concludes:
If you want the Drug War, you must sacrifice the Bill of Rights and the due process rights of the accused, and submit to a police state in which you have no rights or protections whatsoever.
I would tend to put this the other way round, that the Drug War (like its antecedents, including Prohibition) exists because of its impact on due process rights: if drugs didn't exist they'd need to be invented, because the same rights that are essential to democracy are obstacles to capitalism.

Six Down, Something Like 300 To Go

As I mentioned earlier, I went back and tried Richard Maltby's first Harper's crossword. It was pretty easy! I've since printed out and solved five others.

The clues seem easier than in current puzzles. I do like that some of the interesting recurring puzzle varieties (dedicated dodecahedron, diametricode, righTangles) were in use right from the start.

At the same time, it seems like the clues in the older puzzles are not quite as "fair" as in his present-day puzzles. That was actually something that prompted me to look up older Maltby crosswords when I wanted more than one puzzle a month and found the ones on offer from the UK too UK-centric, while Frank Lewis's for the Nation strike me as insufficiently Ximenean. But yeah, so one of these first few Maltby clues included "Change livers (6)," which is easy enough, but which he would never use today.

But yeah, fun, in any case. I subscribed to Harper's somewhere around 2002 and haven't finished every puzzle since then, though I've given pretty much all of them the old college "try." So I have about three hundred to catch up to that point. That's what, two years' worth? Maybe I should ration them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Literary Mashups?

I was thinking the other day that it would be cool to get some Project Gutenberg texts, typeset them nicely in some free document processor, make a cool cover image and then put them up for sale at one of those digital print-on-demand sites. Or even just have a series of classics printed up for your personal library. There must be people doing stuff like that, right?

And then I was wondering, does anyone take advantage of any of the copylefted or public domain texts out there and actually modify them significantly? Like adding a whole bunch of illustrations, or even changing the plot or removing characters. Instead of trying to ban Huck Finn from school libraries, conservatives should be publishing their own rewrites where Huck does the right thing and turns Jim over to the authorities.

Anyway, keep an eye out for my upcoming masterpiece, 10,000 Leagues Under Ulysses, featuring stills from Lady Frankenstein.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Found this review of The Recognitions:
When carefully and thoughtfully read a rich bounty of rewards awaits the attentive reader. I have had many intimate moments with this work when, perhaps sitting in a coffee shop, I'll be involved in a particularly frustrating piece of dialogue and I'll laugh out loud at Gaddis' razor-sharp eye for the frailty of human interactions...
Too perfect. I suppose furious masturbation does technically qualify as an "intimate moment."

Razor-sharp eye indeed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pointless Satire

This JSF op-ed about how we should eat dogs is pretty silly. I think anyone who's ever really thought about the taboos surrounding which animals we'll eat and which we won't has come to the same conclusion, that it's to a large extent arbitrary with very little basis in reason or any kind of absolute ethical standard. But who cares?

Foer tries to imply that the meat of all the animals euthanized in shelters goes to waste, but then he immediately acknowledges that in actuality a lot of those bodies are turned into feed for other animals. He calls that an "inefficient and bizarre middle step," but of course it isn't: our pets and livestock have to eat something, after all, so why not give them the stuff we don't want?

And it's not like if someone found an unidentified cow wandering along the side of the highway, turned it over to animal control, and nobody claimed it, that it would then be chopped up into hamburger and sold at the supermarket. We're not nearly as careful about monitoring the health of the animals we eat as we should be, but we certainly don't consume "strays" of any species, and I doubt any (perfectly legal!) puppy mill comes anywhere close to satisfying the standards for farms raising animals for human consumption.

Finally, Foer avoids the almost obligatory "Chinese restaurant" jokes, but only just barely. I have no idea what I'm talking about and will gladly retract if I am wrong, but I am going to go ahead anyway and call bullshit on this little factoid: "the Sino-Korean character for 'fair and proper' (yeon) literally translates into 'as cooked dog meat is delicious.'" Sure it is. The Filipino recipe for dog stew that begins with slaughtering instructions is also way out of line, again for obvious reasons.

But yeah, anyway, retarded essay. The old rule of thumb, that any piece of satire that has to include the phrase "modest proposal" in its title or subtitle is not worth the reader's time, holds up once again.