was standing on the right, I was holding the handrail, and I
certainly had no stroller. But I wasn't carrying a dog!
no one noticed. But I'm thinking of getting something small
a rat terrier? so as to avoid trouble in the future.
Jan. 28: What Floats a Politicianís Boat
MP (Barry Gardiner) sends out a little promotional pamphlet
to the houses in the area he represents. In it, he quotes Councilor
Jim Moher as saying, "Nothing has given me more satisfaction
this year than the road resurfacing in the Bush Grove Estate."
imagine if this were true?! The most satisfying thing in Jim's
life last year was a bit of road resurfacing! If you
ever think your life is boring, just remember Jim.
Jan. 29: Our Undeniable Genetic Programming
been watching Serena Williams play Lindsey Davenport in the
finals of the Australian Open. Williams apparently has some
problem with her stomach muscles and is having difficulty moving.
On one point, Davenport forced Williams into her backhand corner.
Williams returned that shot successfully, but pretty much straight
up the middle and without much force behind it. I suspected
that Davenport would return that shot to the opposite corner,
forcing Williams on a long run. And so did Williams, who began
moving back toward the middle of the court.
Davenport sent the ball even deeper into Williams backhand corner.
This forced Serena to change direction, putting a strain on
her sore stomach muscles, and left her further from her forehand
corner than before. She again returned weakly up the middle.
Now, Davenport hit a line drive into Williams' forehand
corner. Williams didn't even run after it.
you out there might mistakenly be thinking: That was a very
clever decision on Davenport's part. But you'd be wrong!
You see, humans are only vehicles for genes to reproduce themselves.
We don't really make decisions; we just follow our genetic programming.
What you fail to realize is that our ancestors, in their generations
of life as hunter-gatherers on the African Savannah, were programmed
with an instinct that hardwired the following response into
our nervous system: When you find yourself in the finals of
a major tennis tournament, facing a dangerous opponent, but
one whose mobility is limited by injury, try to force her to
move around the court a little more than usual. Therefore, when
the "game-situational perceptive programming" through which
evolution has enabled us to recognize certain court situations
as matching one of hundreds of eidetic patterns stored in our
genes indicated the above situation held, Davenport automatically
sent a second shot into the backhand corner.
that certain people can still believe outlandish explanations
of events that involve implausible things like "human choice"!
Jan. 31: Fuzzy Old England
from watching Monty Python, The Avengers, and
other British TV shows from the 60s and 70s, was that England
is a vague and somewhat out-of-focus place. I can now assure
you that it is not the case objects are every bit as sharp
and focused here as in the US, and their colors are no more
or less washed out than are the colors of American objects.
against the above, I must mark in the surprise-on-the-downside
column the fact that England is chock full of very tiny steps
oh, like an inch high or so. English architects seem to have
precisely determined the height at which a step is just too
small to be plainly visible, but still plenty tall enough to
trip you. A favorite place for these mini-steps is in pubs,
perhaps as one transitions from one room to another, but maybe
just hanging out halfway across a single, large room.
Feb. 2: A Film Iíd Really Like to See
I was at
my friend Michiru's apartment the other day. On his dresser,
I saw a book sitting on top of a videotape. The two titles merged
together in my mind, and suddenly I realized there was a film
I really would like to see made one day: Prince and
Wittgenstein Live from Las Vegas on Rules and Private Language.
Feb. 5: Itís Not That BadÖ But Donít Ever Mention That!
a free UK paper, has a story today about an academic study demonstrating
that heroin use is relatively harmless. "Edinburgh drug worker"
David Pentland is quoted as saying: "To put this information
out into society... is totally irresponsible."
dispute the findings he just claims that the truth should
be suppressed... maybe because the demand for his services would
drop should people realize that they're not really needed.
Feb. 6: Spring Is in the Air
is fully underway in London. Snowdrops, forsythia, crocuses,
and cyclamens are all in bloom. The daffodils will bloom soon.
Shrubs and trees are putting out new buds.
is a quite brief affair here, albeit dark.
Feb. 7: Celebrating Randís Birthday
Wednesday, February 2nd, was the 100th anniversary of Ayn Randís
birthday, I decided to have an "Ayn Rand day" of my
own. Hereís my report on what I did:
out of bed and enjoyed a symbol of the fire in manís mind. (I.e.,
a cigarette.) The previous day, in purchasing tobacco in anticipation
of this celebration, I had been a little puzzled: just which
brand is the most rational? Finally, I decided to buy a pouch
of Golden Virginia and some rolling papers, as that way I could
engage in productive activity (rolling) before smoking. (Of
course, I bought a cigarette holder as well.)
my smoke, I showered, dressed, and got ready for my first big
event of the day. I watched the house across the street out
of my window until I saw all of my neighbors head off for work
or school. Then I fetched the dynamite I had bought the day
before, and headed over to get rid of the building. Itís pretty
architecturally hideous, one of those awful fake Tudors, so,
like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, I figured it would
be OK, especially today, to blow it up.
as I placed the dynamite, I recalled that in Randís novel Roark
freely admitted to having blown up the building. Hmm, the house
was pretty ugly, but I wasnít sure it was so ugly that
I was willing to do some time to be rid of it. I might be doing
others a favor, but, then, to suffer in prison myself for their
benefit would be altruistic, and acting unselfishly was surely
no way to celebrate Rand Day. Let them blow up the building
if they want. I shuffled back across the street and put the
explosives back in my room. Crap, what is my landlord going
to think if he finds enough dynamite to blow up a house in my
to enjoy the fire in the mind again Ė must remember not to do
so too near the dresser! Ė so I rolled another fag and lit it.
Fire, a dangerous force, was tamed at my fingertips. Well, maybe
not quite tamed, since I hadnít rolled the cigarette too well,
and a burning chunk of manís rationality fell on my trousers.
Unfortunately, I was watching the smoke and thinking, waiting
for great things to come into my mind, so I didnít notice the
mishap until the ideas burned right through my pants and I felt
the sharp, hot sting of the mental united with the physical
on my leg.
out the burning thoughts Ė I worried that such a response might
be irrational, but, damn it, my leg hurt! Ė I decided it was
high time to charge someone with plagiarism. I called my friend
Bob Murphy and told him that I felt he had plagiarized his article
on the origin of money from my work.
are you talking about, Gene?"
you write that money arose through indirect exchange, as some
commodity came to be a commonly accepted medium of exchange,
donít I say the same thing in my book?"
isnít it true that you read my book before writing that article?
In fact, that you read it very carefully, taking notes on it,
since the publisher paid you to read it before it was even published?"
but what about MengerÖ"
my friend, Iíve got you nailed. I demand that you come to London
for a trial. If you refuse, I will break with you and announce
that you are a looter."
yeah, whatever, Gene. Maybe you should cut back on the partying
a little bit, huh?"
bit, I thought, had gone significantly better than the house
demolition project. I had some more fire
from within Ė oh, wait, thatís the wrong guru! Ė some fire
from the mind of man, and mentally prepared myself for my next
challenge. I called up a friend of mine Ė for the sake of her
privacy, letís call her Ann, even though her real name is Barbara
Johnson. "Ann," I said, "Iíve always admired
you. As the logical outcome of that admiration, Iím coming over
to force rough sex on you in a way verging on rape. But donít
worry, youíll enjoy it. Is that OK?"
Gene, first of all, if youíre going to force sex on someone,
you canít really ask them if itís OK. It kind of refutes the
whole Ďforceí idea."
yeahÖ good point."
secondly, I have a boyfriend. I donít think heíd like it too
much if you did that."
he doesnít want us to unite the mental and the physical in a
way that expresses our highest ideals? Should we instead sacrifice
our own happiness at the altar of some death-worshipping Ďmoralityí?
Is he anti-life?"
I donít think so. But he is a bouncer at a London night club,
and a black belt in karate."
forcing sex on Ann was out. I was at a loss to imagine whom
else I might take in the roughest way possible, until I happened
to glance into the mirror. Suddenly, I knew what would happen,
as I caught myself staring at me with a look of such smoldering
passion that I knew resisting my life-affirming desire was futileÖ
was over with, it was high time for a smoke before setting off
on my next task. I traveled to central London, where I spent
a couple of hours lurking in alleys and doorways, awaiting passers-by
whom I could mysteriously accost with the question, "Who
is John Galt?" Most of them just pretended that they hadnít
heard me Ė clearly, those were folks who wanted to exist without
thinking Ė but a few people stopped long enough to answer, "That
fellow from Atlas
Shrugged. Have I won something?"
my question wasnít having the same effect that it had had in
Randís novel. Therefore, it was irrational to continue asking
it. I played some Rachmaninoff on my I-Pod, lit another fag,
and contemplated Ė quite rationally, mind you! Ė what I should
Feb. 8: What Is an Anarchist Who Has Been Mugged?
quip was that a neoconservative was a liberal who had been mugged.
Well, let me tell you about my night on Monday...
I was walking
home from the underground station at about 10:30, on my usual
route through a small park right across the street from the
station. (Cutting through the park is quite common for commuters,
and it slices about 15 minutes off of my walk home.) Two "yoots"
were standing about 20 yards inside the park. I had just passed
them, when one of them said, "What are you looking at?"
Just what is it with these ghetto kids and being "looked at"?
I mean, it's certainly not a "black thing" my two housemates
from Ghana never freaked out when I looked at them, nor did
any of my reggae band mates over the course of a decade, nor
have I ever met any black professional who got the heebie-jeebies
when glanced at. And the white kids who grow up in the projects
that's council flats, Brits seem to have the same desire
that others avert their gaze as the black ones do.)
just hate the idea that all decent people need to move through
life cowering from thugs, so I turned around and said, "I was
looking at you guys. But that's only because you're standing
in the sidewalk, and I didn't want to run into you."
don't look at anyone when you go through this park."
I look at the tree there and that fence too it's not to dis
them, but so I don't walk right into them."
can imagine that, after a minute or so of this, these chaps
were thinking, "We're going to have to kick this white boy's
ass or he's never going to shut up." But, in fact, I said good
night, and turned to walk away, and it seemed they were going
to let me go. But then I made what, in retrospect, I see was
a terrible mistake. My cell phone buzzed, and I took it out
of my pocket to answer it.
must have crossed my friends' minds (such as they are) at that
1) we can
steal his cell phone; and
2) he might
be calling the police.
thing I knew, I felt a tremendous blow to the side of my head.
One of them had kicked me there! I fell over onto the grass,
and both of them began kicking me as I lay there. I struggled
to my feet, and was kicked in the head again.
must note some admiration for these yoots athleticism. It's
not easy to kick someone in the head who is 5'10" and is standing.
I imagine the British school system must have given them lots
of training in football (soccer), to "keep them out of trouble."
for me, another train had just come into the station. No doubt
worried that others would be passing through the park soon,
the lads demanded my money, scooped up my cell phone, and took
a minute, a commuter on his cell phone to the police it turned
out came up and asked me if I was OK. Another person helped
me to find my glasses. The first fellow led me back to the station
and asked for a first aid kit.
while later, two cops arrived and interviewed me. They were
quite pleasant and sympathetic, and I believe that they really
would have liked to catch my assailants, but they held out little
hope that they could do so. They called an ambulance, which
brought me to the local hospital. As I sat in the waiting room,
my landlord and his girlfriend who had been told of the attack
by the police showed up at my side. God bless them! I was
checked out by a nurse, who told me I could wait a few hours
to see a doctor. I asked if there was anything life-threatening
about my injuries. She said "No," and I said, "Then I think
I'll go home." And so I did.
is an anarchist after he's been mugged? Still an anarchist,
it seems. Other then sending around two pleasant blokes to chat
with me for a bit, the state did nothing to either prevent or
redress the attack. And, by severely restricting the right of
British citizens to defend themselves, the UK government has
doubtlessly given people like my park friends a great deal more
confidence that they can pull off such assaults without, say,
being shot in the head.
I become an anarchist in the first place because I think everyone
is gentle and peaceful, or that everyone would be so if there
were no state. Contra the author of one of The
Federalist Papers, who wrote, "If men were angels, no
government would be necessary," I have always believed that
if men were angels, the state might be acceptable. It is precisely
our non-angelic nature that makes the power of the state too
dangerous for any human to possess. I cannot see how the viciousness
of those who attacked me differs in any essential way from that
of the state-sponsored thugs who have killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians
except for the fact that the actions of my attackers
lacked official sanction
while an incident like that described above may not change an
anarchist's views, it can change the view of him. (See
the photo to the right.)