Plain Language: What is Plain Language?

I’ve wanted to find minimalists authors so that I can understand their economy of words in relation to the structure of their stories (plots, climaxes, descriptions and so forth) because I feel I’ve grasped a basic understanding of minimalism and simplicity in most other spheres (art, music, politics).

A few minimalist authors would be: Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Chuck Palahniuk, Emily Dickinson, Amy Hempel, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tobias Wolff, Grace Paley, Sandra Cisneros, Mary Robison, and Frederick Barthelme, Samuel Beckett.

Linguist and political critic Noam Chomsky developed a syntax theory based on minimalism. In fact he wrote a book on it: The Minimalist Program

For more: http://www.hikaripub.com/tips.htm#Mini

However, this seems oriented toward minimalism in technical writing especially when it sites the  Nurnberg tunnel series by John Carro.

Advertisements

Zalibarek

February 25, 2007

:::: zalibarek ::::

I love surrealism, but there is only a few surrealist works and artist I truly enjoy. Surrealism has this strange ability to devolve into simply the bizarre, grotesque, and often pointless. There is surrealist art that challenges our perceptions and then is surrealism that is just “weird” in order to appear artistic.

Untitled

February 25, 2007

Resources – Stencil Revolution

This neo-graffitti stuff is going to be trumped by  lazer-light graffitti scenes but the stencil revolution (as old as Soviet Cold War propaganda) is/was great.

Untitled

February 25, 2007

Stunning wall murals – a photoset on Flickr

I think I’ll start blogging all these little tidbits of links I go through throughout the day.

technorati tags:

During this morning’s US history class, I had this brief moment of inquiry into what I’m calling “microenvironmentalism” and just how much of a failure it truly can be if we don’t have a larger focus on “macroenvironmentalism” in America, at least. Micro/Macroenvironmentalism is, I think, is already jargon in a few fields already but since wikipedia doesn’t have a definition for it and google only has 19 pages regarding it I’m going to hijack it for my own purposes.

In terms of trying to “save the environment” and thus the world (apparently, nobody is trying to save the cheerleader here… yet…) there are several ad-hoc McGuyver-esque tips and tricks one can use to micromanage there carbon footprint. This is basically what I mean by microenvironmentalism – miniscule ways an individual can “save the environment.” Here is an excellent example of these tricks: 100 ways to Save the Environment

There are several “all-natural” products that have little pro-microenvironmentalist slogans to make it appear you’re ‘doing your part.’ For instance, Seventh Generation is one of those companies that produce “Natural All Purpose” cleaning supplies with two main quotes that reflect their philosophy. First one is from “The Great Law of the Iroquis Confederacy”:

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.

Hence the name. This philosphy is in no way small – according to Wikipedia groups have proposed this idea to be a “Seventh Generation Amendment.” The problem is that the other quote Seventh Generation puts on their products is this:

You are making a difference. TM

If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of 32 oz. petroleum based all-purpose cleaning with our renewable resource based product, we could save 7,100 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 400 U.S. homes for a year!

Far be it from me to figure out how in the hell they trademarked the phrase “You are making a difference” but this quote reveals the absolute short-sightedness of these seemingly pro-environment companies. 400 houses for a year? That’s what, 1 square mile of a residential area if all 300,000,000 Americans replaced there 32 oz. of WD40 with Seventh Generation’s product? Do the math on that. You’re using 100 percent of the population in order to save 0.0000013 percent. That is statistically irrelevant. They say these microenvironmentalist tips and tricks eventually “add up” and pay off. Well, that might be true if by “add up” you mean having every American citizen doing about a million of these short-sighted tricks every day for decade.

And how amazingly naive is it to think that Seventh Generation could somehow monopolize the cleaning products market? “Saving 7,100 barrels of oil” are they joking? We burn through something like 20 million a day for fucks sake.

This type of short-sighted naivete is what is ultimately killing the environmentalists. They aren’t properly proposing a macroenvironmentalist philosphy that may, actually, do some good. Macroenvironmentalists, obviously, being those ways of reducing emissions and “saving the environment” in a massive way. Two great examples of this are the banning of CFCs and the Clean Emissions Act in the 70s (I think) that required cars to get routine smog checks and mufflers that so forth. This tactic worked during the Ozone crisis and still relatively does work.
But why is there the emphasis on microenvironmentalism moreso than macroenvironmentalism. Well, micro-E is more effective on the individual. Just pick and choose of the 100 ways to save the environment that you can do. They are simple and flexible enough for everyone to fulfill. But ultimately, it’s still short-sighted. Everyone could do them but the reason we have a government, on some level, is get us to do things we must do. The ozone was “saved” not because environmentalists said you should for the sake of the environment get your car’s emissions checked. The ozone was ‘saved’ because the government made it a law. This is macroenvironmentalism. Instead of offering ad-hoc solutions to massive problems confronting mankind, use institutions created for the soul purpose of motiving mankind to solve the problem.

Don’t follow some strange instructions you found on the internet to get your car to run on human excrement, vote for and lobby for policies that enact sweeping pro-environmentalist legislation like supporting green gas power plants, emissions and so forth. Ultimately, if the government and environmentalists work together to do the morally right thing they’ll solve the problem macroenvironmentally – At the very least they’ll be closer to solving the problem than a lifestime of microenvironmentalism ever could.

Now I know I’m sort of misrepresenting my position here because I honestly don’t believe microenvironmentalism to be wholly without merit. The issue I take part in is that microenvironmentalism is only useful if it is to compliment a larger philosophy surrounding macroenvironmentalism. There’s no point in saving 7,100 barrels of oil if we a) still have a major dependence on oil and b) are still sucking oil out of the earth at the same rate.

However, the biggest hurdle macroenvironmentalism will have to overcome is the affinity America has with land, particularly its land. John Locke, the great political philosopher, highlighted the fact that during the American Revolution and America’s inception into the world stage as the power in the Western Hemisphere is that land, specifically property, meant – literally for a time being – freedom and opportunity. This philosophy pervaded much US public policy during it’s Frontier days and even much after the historian Turner said the Frontier was closed – instead of being American pioneers “carving out civilization” we decided to try and conquer Cuba, Philipines and so forth. We still have an affinity for land and property (however property has become a little more intangible ala “intellectual property”, stocks, businesses and so forth) Now that all the property is owned now we have an affinity for power over the land.

America likes using its land and its resources. We’ve liked it since before we became a nation and we’ve liked it ever since. The Turner Frontier thesis shed light on the imperitive for the country to rethink it’s land-centric (or Frontier-centric) philosophy simply because we ran out of physical land to pioneer. Our first response to this was along the lines of “well… conquer someone elses land – Cuba, Philipines.” That’s how we got Puerto Rico and Guam and naval bases like Guantanamo on Cuba.

A hundred years later, our land is threatened again. Now we’re simply not supposed to touch it anymore. We’ve had far far too much fun with it so much so that continuing in a such a way will ultimately be hazardous to us – fatally even. Rome over-extended its empire  and power over Asia, Africa and Europe to the point where it fell. America is over-using its empire to the point where we have to “liberate” countries to impose our political philosophy on so that… hopefully and eventually… America can continue to exist in other forms.

So now, macroenvironmentalism will have to develop a philosophy that either already compliments Americanism or one that must replace it – fat chance though. I see this being it the philosophy’s main impetutus to adoption but also the only way global warming and environmentalism in general are going to surive. You’ve got to convince America of this and do so in such a way that allows for its adoption by even the most hardcore nationalists (or “patriots” as they are sometimes called).  Once that is fulfilled, have as many McGuyver-esque microenvironmentalist tricks you want.

The Office

January 17, 2007

Ken Jennings, you know, the guy who made Jeopardy a game of Memory had a little post popup on TVsquad about my favorite show, The Office.

Basically, he just pointed out that The Office has more of a mockumentary style than a truth-oriented spontaneous documentary style (link). He’s got a point. It’s obvious that The Office cameramen are shooting right during a punchline. He points out one example:

In one of my favorite episodes, “Conflict Resolution” from Season 2, the camera whip-pans onto Jim just in time to see him mouth the words “That’s what she said!” to match Steve Carell’s delivery of the line, and then zips 90 degrees back to the first speaker. Wow, that was one alert camera operator! He can pick out unspoken bits of business from halfway across the room, the exact second they’re developing.

But really, it is so much worse than that. At the end of season 2, during the tumultuous kiss of Jim and Pam there seems to be a cameraman… in the kitchen… in the dark… peering through the slightly open blinds – similar to the second Jan/Michael kiss when Michael is visiting Corporate. In the 3rd season’s Christmas episode there is a camerman seemingly on another roof a block away shooting Dwight waiting for his CIA helicopter to come.

There are also instances where during the daily shenanigans someone will make a joke or just general statement about another person and then suddenly will be in a scene  explaining their reasons for the joke. I think it was early second season where Michael is emasculating Dwight about something by saying “TMI” and then, all of a sudden, there is Michael explaining what TMI means and why he uses it. “TMI? Too Much Information. I used to say ‘Don’t go there’ but.. that’s lame.”

Does any of this make the show less funnier? Hell no. It is just the sort of irrelevant point someone would make about a TV show simply because it either isn’t staying perfectly honest to itself or to the form. It’s like when someone says about 24 “How did Jack Bauer get from East LA to Downtown in under 10 minutes?” or for The Simpsons “Does anyone in this friggen town age? Maggie has been an infant for almost 16 years now.” They are all logistical problems that are ignored.

Sure 24 could make transportation a little more realistic but do you really want to see Jack Bauer having to stop at a Shell gas station to fill his gas-guzzling SUV in between torturing someone and saving the country from utter destruction? Sure The Simpsons could have everyone age appropriately, but do you really want to see Montgomery Burns dead, Lisa married and/or pregnant, Bart in prison for arson, and Homer recovering from his 12th quadrupal bypass this year alone? Sure The Office cameramen could act like a real documentarian but he’d end up only catching about half the jokes, if that, on film.

Norman and Spolsky: Simplicity is Out

Been savin’ this. Awhile back Joel Spolsky and Don Norman came out with two articles against product simplicity. It eventually made its way to slashdot.org where /.’s informed users laughed, ridiculed, and analyzed their peices to utter destruction – rightly so. Norman and Spolsky completely missed the mark on both understanding simplicity and why simplicity is implemented – actually they even misunderstood the thing that they supported instead: complexity. Norman was gracious enough to come out with an addendum to his article in order to respond to some of the /. flak he got but, I think, despite his best efforts, he came up short and made the problem a little worse for his arguments.

First, Norman pops out with this:

“Why can’t products be simpler?” cries the reviewer in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the local newspaper. “We want simplicity” cry the people befuddled by all the features of their latest whatever. Do they really mean it? No.

But when it came time for the journalists to review the simple products they had gathered together, they complained that they lacked what they considered to be “critical” features. So, what do people mean when they ask for simplicity? One-button operation, of course, but with all of their favorite features.

No. For those journalists who demanded “critical” features (which essentially means necessary ones) simplicity does not mean “One button to rule all the functions.” It means exactly what they meant: Simplicity means having all the necessary features and no (or the least amount of) unnecessary ones. That’s the core motto of simplicity: necessity. It’s the core of Okham’s Razor – the grand philosophical quote of simplicity. Either quote is applicable be it the technical one: “entities shall not be multiplied beyond necessity” or the colloquial one: “The simplest explanation tends to be the right one.”

Granted, this manifestation of simplicity isn’t always “fair” to the engineer who tries to follow the 80-20 rule (as is discussed in Spolsky’s article) but that’s the very paradox engineer’s deal with. The only thing you, as an engineer or as a product designer, need to be concerned about is if you’ve applied the bare essential features to whatever product it is you’re selling.

Norman, when he suggests that simplicity means “one button” he should mean, or rather intends to mean, minimalism. The difference in understanding minimalism in relation to simplicity is best explained via painting – well maybe that’s just me with my art history background. A painting of one color is obviously minimalistic. A portrait painting of one man sitting in a chair in an empty room is simplistic. Minimalism is the view that tries to cut everything down to the core of expression. Conceptually, this means not merely getting rid of the excess – the unnecessary – but cutting down everything to the “singular” the “one” core peice of artistic expression that exists. Simplicity, although conceptually similar, allows for pluralities. It just must be understood that as long as everything included is absolutely necessary.

For some product designers – I’m guessing here – they’ll employ techniques of minimalizing as well as simplifying. Having one button do the work of two (like a pause/play button on an mp3 player) is minimalizing. Removing the calender nobody uses on an mp3 player – simplifying.

And while were discussing the terminology of simplicity it’ll be appropriate to quote the most worthwhile thing in Spolsky’s article:

If you’re using the term “simplicity” to refer to a product in which the user model corresponds closely to the program model, so the product is easy to use, fine, more power to ya. If you’re using the term “simplicity” to refer to a product with a spare, clean visual appearance, so the term is nothing more than an aesthetic description much in the same way you might describe Ralph Lauren clothes as “Southampton WASP,” fine, more power to ya. Minimalist aesthetics are quite hip these days. But if you think simplicity means “not very many features” or “does one thing and does it well,” then I applaud your integrity but you can’t go that far with a product that deliberately leaves features out.

The gut reaction here should clearly be that he’s leaving out the definition of simplicity of “that which has all the necessary features.” And, well, while I’m quoting Spolsky I did also have this to say.

Spolsky’s article is much more cogent and agreeable. But here I did a double-take:

Devotees of simplicity will bring up 37signals and the Apple iPod as anecdotal proof that Simple Sells. I would argue that in both these cases, success is a result of a combination of things: building an audience, evangelism, clean and spare design, emotional appeal, aesthetics, fast response time, direct and instant user feedback, program models which correspond to the user model resulting in high usability, and putting the user in control, all of which are features of one sort, in the sense that they are benefits that customers like and pay for, but none of which can really be described as “simplicity.”

That last clause of the last sentence through me. To me, the only things that struck me as being non-simplistic factors in 37signals/iPod’s success were “building an audience, evangelism, and direct and instant user-feedback.” Everything else has some direct or indirect relationship to the concept or aesthetic of simplicity. Doesn’t “clean and spare design” literally mean “simple design” and doesn’t “program models which correspond to the user model” refer to a “simple product model”?

Back to Stormin’ Norman.

Norman then comes out with these gems:

Describing toasters, refridgerators, and coffee makers: “all of which had multiple control dials, multiple LCD displays, and a complexity that defied description.”

Describing a Korean car’s dashboard: “A rear view mirror with an on-off switch? The salesperson didn’t know what it did either.”

Great. Now we’ve got products so complex we don’t even know what to call them or what the fuck they even are supposed to do. Supporting product complexity invariablly means that you propose a philosophy where the consumer wants less bang for his buck. Let’s revisit the 80-20 rule. It’s a rule of simplicity – if your demographic is that 80% who use 20% of the features – just implement that 20%. Spolsky’s insight is great when he says that the problem is most of the time it’s a different 20% of the features per consumer.  But if Norman is proposing a complexity situation it ends up meaning that 80% of the demographic will end up using much much less than 20% of the features!

Some are familiar with the recent press releases of Apple’s new iPhone (lawsuit pending). Its main features include mp3 player, camera, video player, web-browser, oh.. and apparently it’s a “cell phone” too. Say I buy that $500 cell phone. Say that most of the time I use it just as a cell phone. Setting aside “real” math, I’m using 1/5th of the phone’s features – ahh – 20%. However, if Don Norman had his say and this iPhone also had features like a scanner, portable video games, PDA, coffee grinder, and an intuitive “widget” engine then I’ll end up using 1/10th of the phone’s features – 10% at twice the price. Granted, I’m probably a stupid consumer for buying a product for one feature I use and 9 I don’t but with Stormin’ Norman on the prowl my money is being wasted twice as fast.

In trying to figure out this rather ridiculous conundrum of why these products were designed in such a way he goes on to say:

“Why is this? Why do we deliberately build things that confuse the people who use them?

Answer: Because the people want the features.”

No. Actually, you already had this question of yours answered just a few lines above your own answer:

“Why?” I asked my two guides, both of whom were usability professionals. “Because Koreans like things to look complex,” they responded. It is a symbol: it shows their status.”

It’s a Korean status symbol. It’s got nothing to really do with whether or not complexity and simplicity are universally virtuous aspects to have in a product. It’s just something of cultural significance. As far as I can tell, Americans on the other hand, don’t view complexity as a “status symbol.” Well maybe they do, but it certainly isn’t a favorable one. The past few years of Apple-crazed products and logo-less clothing lines as well as Tivo and RSS feeds and so forth is that simplicity, not complexity, is what is “in” and rightly so. In fact, I will even go so far as to argue that it is environmentally imperative that we focus on cutting down to bare essentials of living – and that means product design first and foremost. RSS feeds are being used to conglomerate numerous infosites into a singular simplistic interface for ease of use. Tivo cuts out the unessential and rather annoying experience of watching commercials for products I don’t want to buy and food I shouldn’t be eating. Life in Korea may favor complexity but life in America favors simplicity.

His addendum tends to encourage the rather fallacious way humans currently go about buying products based on design. It’s horrific to see someone come out and say this:

“We have to take human behavior the way it is, not the way we would wish it to be.”

…and mean it. It’s a very pessimistic quote is it not? Human behavior, Norman agrees, is fundamentally flawed. But because it is flawed is the reason why “We” (whoever “we” may be) should at least try to improve ourselves from our own flawed nature.

“Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, comparing the features of each, preferring the one that did more? Why shame on you, you are behaving, well, behaving like a normal person.”

Consumers should be shamed. Perferring the one that did more when it does more than you need it to do is not “behaving like a normal person” it’s behaving like a glutton – it’s consumer greed and it is the great economical sin of the century.

Norman also talks about the consumer predisposition to conflate complexity with power. This, again, isn’t a virtue. It’s a fallacy which Norman encourages:

Sorry: it is the apparent complexity that drives the sale. And yes, it is the same complexity that frustrates those same people later on. But by then, it is too late: they have already purchased the product.

Is there some sort of Designer’s Ethics Committee that can censure this guy? This is the designer’s equivalent of a hooker saying “Hey, want a good time?” You: “Hell yeah!” You spend 200 bucks on a experience where half the time you’re thinking to yourself “I could’ve just gone home and beat my meat for free.” Then, once this horrible ordeal is over you have to check yourself for spots for the next 6 weeks.  You’re lured in and fucked.

Designers shouldn’t be conmen.

Complex things do not mean more power – if anything they mean less power in the realm of electronics. An mp3 player will tend to have a longer battery life if all it does is play mp3s. The new Apple iPhone is a video ipod, camera, phone, PDA, and web browser all-in-one. That is quite powerful. I don’t know if I’ll ever spend the $500 dollars on a phone (hah, and people were complaining about the price of the PS3! It’s a fucking super-computer media hub for crissakes) but if I do, I’ll get the one with the simplistic interface. But this Apple iPhone is not all that powerful after its 5 hour battery life. However, I had never thought of simplicity and complexity in their relation to power before – an interesting relation to consider too.

Norman also wrote the article: The Truth about Google’s so-called “simplicity”:
He comes out with these gems:

Why are Yahoo! and MSN such complex-looking places? Because their systems are easier to use.

A) No they aren’t. B) “complex” and “easy” are antonyms!

True [Google’s interface is simple], but that’s because you can only do one thing from their home page: search.

What do you mean “but”? Isn’t the point of a search engine to search? He follows up this quote with:

Anybody can make a simple-looking interface if the system only does one thing.

True, anybody can. Very few actually do.

If you want to do one of the many other things Google is able to do, oops, first you have to figure out how to find it, then you have to figure out which of the many offerings to use, then you have to figure out how to use it. And because all those other things are not on the home page but, instead, are hidden away in various mysterious places, extra clicks and operations are required for even simple tasks — if you can remember how to get to them.

Did it ever occur to you that you could just search for something on Google? Fucking Christ Norman. Saying something along the lines of “How do you find something on Google” is about as stupid as looking up the word “dictionary” in the dictionary.

It hides all the complexity by simply showing one search box on the main page. The main difference, is that if you want to do anything else, the other search engines let you do it from their home pages, whereas Google makes you search through other, much more complex pages. Why aren’t many of these just linked together? Why isn’t Google a unified application?

Because Google isn’t an operating system with a desktop. It’s a search engine with peripheral applications its linked to based on its success of buying out innovative companies. You aren’t looking for a search engine – you’re looking for GoogleOS or some massive website that is an amalgamation of all those products you want in one tight website riddled with links to applications you intermittently use. People use Google (lemme pull a statistic out of my ass) 90% of the time to search for fuck-all. Sometimes they need a map, sometimes they need the news and sometimes they want to check mail or their calender. All of this is a click away. When I use Google to search for something, I don’t need the latest information in my calender or mailbox and I sure as hell don’t need to see a map of the US. I need a text box and button titled “I’m feelin’ lucky.” Thats. It. And that’s the point.

Too Many Damn Books!

December 12, 2006

I was just browsing over the numerous books I have on my numerous Amazon wishlists. I want to eventually read all of them. This year so far I’ve read about 64 books (although some were remarkably short like the few Banksy books). I would like to finish off 2 more before the year ends. However, after viewing how many books I’ve got listed in my several wishlists I don’t think I’ll be able to finish them all.

Besides, if anything, once I read one book the information broaden my mind to such an extent that I would end up desiring about 3 more or worse yet, an entirely new subject and thus tens if not hundreds more books. For instance, after I read A Hacker Manifesto awhile back as well as Voluntary Simplicity and the few brief art movement manifestos I read for my art history class I had become fairly interested in not only the concept of “manifest” which essentially means to “bring into the real”, and “manifesto” which is a statement of intentions but in such a way that gives itself authority in whatever subject it concerns itself with.  After reading Social Change and a few stencil art books I had become increasingly interested in rebellions, revolutions, uprisings and other forms of deliberate social change/action.  And ever since I’ve been involved in art, I’ve been interested in mathematics and there are endless connections to be made through these fields.

I won’t list the books in my wishlist as that would be both redundant (from my point of view), laborious (again, from my point of view), and ultimately pointless because eventually I’ll remove some books and add others. For the most part, the subject matters don’t change – although, I have been thinking about making two new wishlists – one on manifestos (just get a list of famous or influencial manifestos or things on manifesto writing) and one on Poetics or Poem literary theory (the simplicity of poetry might make it worthwhile to consider (and study) regarding how I want to write my prose on the Simplicity movemen).

Here’s a tally:

Art-Mind: 25 books
Math and Math-Art: 19 books
Math-Fiction: 3 books
Revolution: 22 books
Third Culture: 4 books
Wishlist (general or unallocated books): 48 books

Total: 121 books! That’s more than twice my ability to read in a YEAR! Although, I think with enough effort I will be able to spend more time reading at home. I never read books at home. I barely do anything at home. What I want to do more than ever is be able to sit down and read. As simple as that. So all those books I read this past year were almost entirely read either in transit going to and from school or were done while having lunch or waiting for class to start. Good times to read books as any but none of them are really a period where it is enjoying reading for the sake of reading – it’s simply using useless time usefully. I should, and should be able to, use my leisure time proactively too.

And, damn, considering how many hours of every day I have of technically ‘free’ time that could be used I could finish the entire encyclopedia brittanica in a week.

Which reminds me…

Commercial for Encyclopedia Brittannica from the 1980s.
Dork:”Everyone knows that this is the greatest encyclopedia in the world! Helped me get a B+”
God: “Why not an A?”

http://www.reason.com/blog/show/117169.html

This is some good material for a post. I’d been thinking of a bunch of things to write about lately but with finals I staved off it. But there was a lot just in the last few days. Over at a new blog I’ve added to the compendium of blogs I already read, http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/, has an interesting essay on emptiness (not to be necessarily confused with nothingness) and the first version of a book by McKenzie Wark: GAM3R 7H30RY. Also, Don Norman just wrote an article titled “Simplicity is Highly Overrated” which I haven’t had time to read but it’s a provocative title. And I’m not even mentioning the political and scientific debacles that have happened recently.

I was also thinking about witting about Karl Pilkington. In short, the man is the antithesis to a philosopher. He’s the exact opposite of what we think philosophers are. In one way, a philosopher trusts his ability to reason but is skeptical of information. Karl Pilkington absorbs information like a sponge, takes it as mental fact, and as far as I can tell should have no reason to trust his ability to rationalize. He does, however, think about reality (like philosophers) and thinks critically about it – which is beautiful. The remarkable thing is how he gets from point A to point B. There was an article he read about how scientists developed a telescope so powerful that it could see a dishwasher on Mars. Karl misread this as stating that there are dishwashers on Mars and evaluated this rather absurd situation questioning “How’d it get there?” instead of intuitively reacting to the situation as being what Ricky Gervais calls “absolute rubbish.” What is even more remarkable is that his views on life in terms of morality are fairly sensible. He likes to learn, he likes to think, and he’s aware of the importance of people’s liberty. So he supports those causes even through absurd ramblings and misinterpretations. He’s great, and despite the harsh times Gervais and “Smerch” give him, this beloved guy from Manchester has his own untouched level of original brilliance – sure, it’s flawed but still brilliant.

Well anyways, this anti-religious atheistic child rant spurred off a little debate when Bill O’Reilly (who I don’t watch. Period.) asked a so-called “Child advocate” Wendy Murphy – and that means what exactly? Like Reverend Lovejoy’s wife from The Simpsons is a “child advocate” Please! Please! Think of the children! – the leading Cavuto-esque question “Is this child abuse?” Obviously her response is a little exaggerated: “The ultimate inhumane treatment of a child.” No, getting a getting a kid to mouth off anti-religious rhetoric is not ‘the ultimate inhumane treatment” at all. The child isn’t being sexually mutilated or lobotomized. Heck, what the parent(s) supposedly did I wouldn’t even qualify as “inhumane” whatsoever let alone the “ultimate” inhumane act.

She already stated that the child doesn’t understand anything of what the child is saying, which if it were true – then it wouldn’t be damaging in the slightest. You ask a kid to say “Flimjab Bwonky doo.” It’d have the same effect if the child truly knew nothing of what it was saying. The thing is though, child most likely does understand, at least in part, what she is saying. But if that is true and the child is clearly doing this willingly and enthusiastically, then we can infer that the child not only understands on some level what she is saying but we can also say the child agrees on some level in what she is saying. Not that Wendy said anything about this, but what is her evidence that a child could not comprehend the subject matter in her rant? The child ranted about a “fictitious” God. Now, if that is something a child fundamentally cannot comprehend – then why is there the assumption that a child can comprehend and believe in a God. So is she suggesting that children don’t have the mental capabilities to disbelieve in God but do have the feeble mindedness to believe in God. That’s both self-deprecating and a contradiction.

Then Wendy is slightly worried that since the child is on the “world stage” making “incendiary comments” which makes her vulnerable to the possibility that “some nut” (which I can only infer would either be a republican, Christian, or Nazi) might hunt this little seven or eight year old girl down. Problem I have here is that the kid was not on the “world stage”. She was on a popular internet video site – Youtube – which might get a few thousand views. O’Reilly put her on the “world stage” when he put her on his tv-show which would get more views than if the video was left to the internet. YouTube currently has the girl’s rant as being viewed 163 thousand times since its inception on November 1st. O’Reilly’s response was on December 5th, and according to this: http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/ratings/the_scoreboard_tuesday_december_5_48845.asp#more

(I am assuming the ratings are in thousands – it seems fairly unlikely that only a 442 people saw his show that day…) His ratings for that day were almost half a million. In a single hour O’Reilly doubled this child’s previous chances of being hunted down and murdered by a crazed cue-balled Bush-voting Jesuit.

But the heart of the response is the common ad hominem. Wendy Murphy gives piss-poor responses, as I’ve superficially showed, but at least they are responses regarding the parent’s conduct and role as a parent. O’Reilly interjects in saying that he doesn’t care about the potential safety of the child and instead suggests that these parents or “nuts” are “deeply disturbed.” Unfortunately, the clip ends right when he begins to go into his rantings – I mean his justifications for his rants – I mean his beliefs – but that seems unnecessary as he’s already given us his conclusion that the child was raised by deeply disturbed nutcases.

And that’s strange. That is his initial response. No, far be it from him to evaluate the validity of the claims the child makes in the rant. Far be it from him to refute her response to his own claim that violence comes from children playing games. Games which are inspired by “adult” violence coming from wars, genocide, and religious radicalism. It seems that O’Reilly… and this should come as no shock to anybody… maybe believes that those who believe these things other than what he believes must be mentally disturbed in principle. Right, atheists must suffer from cognitive defect that makes them incapable of believing in God. Or people who recognize that games just simulate the violence that is found throughout society actually suffer from brain disorders. That’s great, Bill. Classic. Why not get a book out on Phrenology so you can complete your Dr. Mengele manifesto. Some call Dr. Phil about the new O’Reilly-approved symptoms for mental disorders: Having your own child record a video talking about atheism, the senseless killings at the hand of religious crusades, and the irrationality of blaming violence on children who play Soul Calibur and watch Family Guy.

Yeah, this is the kind of critical thinking you get on cable news networks. Great. Like I should really be ashamed for watching The Daily Show now.

The term “incendiary comments” I let slip bye. Neither Murphy nor O’Reilly make this argument but it can be deduced that from “incendiary comments” one should not make them. It’s bullshit. It’s antithetical to the 1st amendment to have freedom of speech but in addition to that, believe that certain people should keep their mouth shut about certain things. Sure, you can disagree with them either on principle or via counter-argument but it’s a contradiction to say “You have the freedom of speech, but shut up about X, Y, and Z.” FCC bans swear words (which I still think is rather absurd. Banning it from television does not diminish a child’s chances from hearing and understanding the word “Fucktard”) but afaik, it doesn’t concepts (at least in principle).

Absolutely beautiful.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdUUx5FdySs

It’s practically a constant of human nature to bypass a system of one’s own limitations. Man was born without wings, yet he flies. Not to sound so high and mighty, but we see this all the time in society and political atmospheres. When the social system is insufficient to your needs – you bypass it or take over the system or change it from within. To bypass it is to break the law. Immediately we think breaking the law is inherently unjustified. But it should be no mystery that when a person is in a situation where, despite their best efforts, society does not fullfill their basic needs. When a man has tried the unemployment line, when he’s tried to apply to welfare and financial help, and when he’s tried all the legal recourses at his disposal and when all those attempts fails – he is justified in breaking the law. It is the conundrum that an illegal act against an illegal system is thus, a justified act. It is the conundrum of commiting an immoral act so as not to commit a more immoral act, is thus a moral act – or at least a morally permissible one. For instance, stealing bread (an immoral act) in order to feed one’s family is a morally permissible act because letting your family die is much more immoral than stealing.

When politics doesn’t do what we request of it, we rebel and then we revolt. When nature doesn’t allow us to do what we desire, we build contraptions to bypass those biological limitations. It is our ingenuity and our unrelentless determination to be more than what limits us that makes us human.