Author Archive for plover

A mind is a terrible lizard

I recently came across the following sentence:

I, for example, cannot imagine how the giant sauropods mated, except through the use of telekinesis.

I have two modest proposals for a solution to this conundrum.

1) Face-to-face

Find a lake with a depth equal to a little under twice the height of a sauropod torso. (If you can’t find such a lake, get a sauropod to dig you one. Tell the sauropod it gets to mate when it’s finished.) Put a sauropod in the lake. Tell it to roll over. Don’t take no, or, more to the point, blank incomprehension, for an answer. Note that the long neck conveniently allows the sauropod to keep its head out of the water while lying on its back. Put a second sauropod, of the opposite sex, in the lake. Presuming a reasonable amount of buoyancy on the part of sauropods, it should now be possible to fire up “Swan Lake” and have them dock together.

2) Oral sex

A male sauropod could perform oral sex on itself then on a female, or, conversely, a female could attend to a male first and then herself. While this explanation, like the previous one, would show selection pressure for long necks, it’s less clear there would be all that much selection pressure for gender discrimination, and sauropods may have gone around having oral sex pretty much at random. Cue outrage about how Darwinists want to teach your kids about gay dinosaurs.

*

The source of the quote is the 1987 novel Daughter of the Bear King by Eleanor Arnason, which features an appendix providing an evolutionary explanation for why dinosaurs were magical. The novel is one of the odder SF/fantasy hybrids I’ve come across, and so far I can’t really convince myself that it works, though it is interesting. However, Arnason would go on to write A Woman of the Iron People and Ring of Swords, two of the best anthropological sf novels around.

Request for reader blurriness: Should Three Bulls! Incarnate (Inblogate?) Incoherence?

Rebuilt Cop Id = Public Editor

A word from Errata Brushbins, 3B’s I-blur-topic ed.

I’m looking for “reader” input on whether and when Three Bulls! keyboard monkeys/meese/birds/fungi/ombudsganisms should insist that “sense” is overrated and ought to be dispensed with in any “content” inflicted on hapless viewers of this website.

One example mentioned recently by a small, potted plant that has never actually read this site: As noted in the recent XLVIX-part series “Under the Bench: A Gum Wad’s View of the Supreme Court”, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” the rules of curling when he used curling stones supplied by his wife which could be remotely steered from a bunker under the Heritage Foundation. The plant seemed perturbed by the plausibility of this scenario.

Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for the lateness of Pitchfork Cobaggery Watch,” a phrase to which Uncanny Canadian responded in a December column by saying: “”.

As a denizen of the Three Bulls! mausoleum, Mr. [sic] Canadian clearly has the freedom to be non-responsive. My question for readers is: should actual non-silent posters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for Three Bulls!, there should be a post stating, more or less:

“Mitt Romney is just a theory. All hail IceWedge.” (IcePorkins getting no love per usual.)

That approach is what one reader was getting at in a recent message found in a bottle washed up on the Three Bulls! private beach. He/she/it/bird wrote:

“My question is what role battle raps play in inducing the heat death of the universe. The main problem with entropy is that it doesn’t work fast enough, especially when living organisms are around. I continually mourn the amount of order I add to the universe and rely on 3B as a synapse randomizer. If the site’s overarching goal is the dismasting of the ship of reason so that it is helpless before wind and water and soon devoured by lampreys and laser-urchins, oughtn’t its principal posts fire their cannons on all cylinders? In other words, if Matthew Yglesias stubs his toe in a forest and no one is there to hear, does he still sound like an emu? And shouldn’t the result be sampled?”

This message was typical, perhaps even archetypical, of “mail” from some readers who, fed up with the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to Three Bulls for variety in distortion and evasion. They worry that 3B might one day show something, that, without requiring the assumption that the phonemes mean something when strung together in one of chief languages of the planet I______ IV, could be called judgment.

Is that the prevailing view? And if so, do we care? We can point to actual sentences in the universe like, “Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?” What more could you want?

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign debates, 3B has employed a special invisible sidebar where we ignore them entirely. Do you like this feature, or would you rather our ignorance be incorporated into our regular posts?

Please feel free to leave a comment below or send an e-mail to public@nytimes.com with the subject line: Must Credit Three Bulls! Beware of comment moderation policy.

PS The collective noun for ombudsganisms is: an ombudsgasm of ombudsganisms. No one who has met one has lived long enough to devise a collective noun for laser-urchins.

Big Taxonomy strikes again

In a move possibly revealing their secret relationship with the Canadian Curling Association, the American Ornithological Union — a front organization if I ever saw one — is autocratically reordering the furniture of the universe. Citing “genetic” “information” from “scientists”, they have decided that snowy plovers are a distinct species, not a sub-species of Kentish plovers as previously thought, and thus must be known as Charadrius nivosus rather than Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus. This, as you may guess, causes distress, hangnails, gastroenteritis, and bureaucracy.

I would no doubt regard being declared a separate “species” as some kind of blatant eugenics program if the other Kentish plovers didn’t horde all the scones for themselves. I would also no doubt inform the AOU that I shan’t be back, if I’d ever been there. But, of course, “there” is nothing but an empty lot with emus nesting in it, as is clearly seen in the satellite photo below. Don’t be surprised if the next time they rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, it is to put you in one of them.

Eemuuus innn spaaaaaaace!!!

Time to invest in ponies… ponies with nasty big pointy teeth

What an eccentric performance… (note: not safe for sanity).

And now for something that is actually not at all different but is, in fact, part two.

Five is not right out, as apparently there are going to be a total of six of these.

Libertarianism can be a lot like the divine right of kings — simple elitism dressed up in some of the moral language of the day. At least this lot admits they’re anti-democratic. Also: watch for the bit where the guy basically implies that assassinating the president would facilitate libertarian city-states seceding from the US, which somehow derives from a libertarian city-state which is effectively at war with the US being a good investment. This idea may disprove string theory as I think there are more curled up dimensions of delusion in it than can be accounted for by any physical theory proposed to date.

??? ??????? (What is to be done?)

(via and also)

Before getting to the main part of my post, I’d like to note the following description of the aftermath of the pepper spraying at UC Davis (the author also provides a take on Lt. Pike’s body language I’m not sure I agree with):

the students announce to the officers that they are offering them “a moment of peace,” that is, the option of leaving without further escalating a truly horrible situation. They cry (in one of the most moving instances of the human mic I’ve ever seen) “You can go! You can go!”

It’s transcendently brilliant, this tactic–the students offer an alternative in a high-pressure situation, a situation that no one wants, but which seems inevitable in the heat of the moment. It’s an act of mercy which, like all acts of mercy, is entirely undeserved. Watch the other officers’ surprise at this turn in the students’ rhetoric, after they had (rightfully) been chanting “Shame on you!” Watch the officers seriously consider (and eventually accept) the students’ offer.

The following tweets are by Zeynep Tufekci, and were in response to a link to a video of the UC Davis protesters being pepper sprayed. 1)Having formed no particularly useful relationship with Twitter, I am unsure what to do with these other than cut and paste. I figured out how to link to a single tweet (which I do on the first one), but not to a point in a sequence.

  • Most everywhere else in the world, the crowd wouldn’t just watch the police pepper spray a row of kids sitting down.
  • American protestors are the most compliant & obedient of the police I’ve seen anywhere. Surprised me when I first came to US.
  • Bystanders just watching … chanting shame. Most places in the world, skirmishes would break out. People wld join, intervene.
  • In the first big protest I witnessed in grad school –fresh-off-the-boat– people said we’re going to do civil disobedience.
  • Protestors sat somewhere, police said we’ve arrested you, everyone got up & lined up, paperwork processed, minor fine, voila.
  • Semed so funny. In most places, if protestors aren’t obeying the police (civil disobedience, unlawful order, etc.) they disobey.
  • I mean, no wonder police feel empowered to brazenly spray a line of kids sitting down. Nobody joins, jumps in, intervenes.
  • Somehow civil disobedience has been reduced to full & polite cooperation w/ all orders. Ppl need to watch civil rights videos.

They are worth reading alongside this post on the ambiguity of non-violence.

There are two points I want to make about these. One is also effectively summarized by the statement of the spokespod from planet Orwell UC Berkeley chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau 2)BTW, the post at the link is rather good, I highly recommend it, if you haven’t come across it before. that “It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.” That is, the operative notion among many authorities that civil dis-obedience is only acceptable (even, for the chancellor, worthy of “honor”) if, well, protesters obey everything the authorities say — a fairly good measure of the degree neo-liberalism abandons democratic principles for (at best) paternalistic ones. Non-elect human beings are a management problem, passive, infantile things, best managed at arms length, entirely through statistics if at all possible. 3)In constructing this conceit, I am no doubt guilty of conflating the statement of the chancellor with those of neo-liberal defenders of the current role of Wall Street, but I suspect the connection is not unfair. Protest should not do even conceptual violence since the values civil manager/rulers are supposed to uphold in the name of the will of the people pre-exist the will of any actual people. 4)As my brain’s pedantic lobe insists on making clear: it is this disconnect between the will of an actual demos and the rather less dynamic categories used by the manager/rulers to understand that will that provokes my dig about statistics. (If anyone comes across the howling revenant of Thoreau, perhaps he could be given directions to the chancellor’s office.)

This post has some useful history showing the likely difference between the particular protest situation described by Tufekci and what OWS protesters encounter. (And this post is a useful corrective to some non-historical aspects of the previous link.)

I have been puzzling over the connection between the chancellor’s demand for passivity on the part of protesters, and the congressional Democratic leadership’s usual passivity in the face of Republican demands, e.g. the farcical “filibuster-by-gentlemen’s-agreement” they’ve allowed to overshadow Senate business. The suggestion of a connection seems quite strong, but so far I haven’t found a way to make it explicit that doesn’t fall apart.

The second concern derives from the initial tweet: “Most everywhere else in the world, the crowd wouldn’t just watch the police pepper spray a row of kids sitting down.” I suspect there is a real point here regarding the difference between US crowds (at least in some metropolitan contexts) and crowds in many other countries — though I think in this unqualified form it is hard to pin down. The most obvious objections are that the “bystander effect” is not an aberration of Americans, and that, historically and currently, situations where a populace fears the effects of interfering with authorities are not uncommon.

But I think there is a more interesting question here: what is the role of the crowd in non-violent protest? Or rather “roles”, as the crowd is unlikely to be homogeneous. For example, in the crowd at UC Davis a rather large percentage are wielding cameras of one sort or other. Who among them considers themself a “journalist” — a role that traditionally calls for “reporting the story” rather than “being the story”? On the other hand, who considers themself to have the somewhat more ambiguous role of “witness”? Are those who show up at a protest with the intent of documenting what happens in order to ensure that the protesters side of the story gets told, effectively part of the protest, that is, are they too expected to exemplify non-violence?

If bullying authorities are interfered with, does that not effectively constitute a secondary protest, one specifically against the treatment of the original protesters? In what cases and what forms is this secondary protest justified in abandoning strict non-violence? And (if the answer is not the same), in what cases is it advisable? The answer to that last would seem to depend a great deal on the effective audience for the protest.

There is a long history of discussion on the left of when violence might be justified and against whom. Of course, many of the landmarks in that discussion are a century or more old at this point, and when I read current discussions of these issues, I can end up feeling that not enough care has been taken to update the older ideas for current conditions, or to acknowledge what non-violence has or can accomplish. So many of the culturally widespread images of revolution remain 18th and 19th century ones.

While he uses a more explicitly Marxist vocabulary than I would, and I haven’t entirely decided what I do and don’t endorse about his conclusions, this guy provides a much richer discussion than I can of these issues.

Perhaps, the missing element in Tufekci’s tweets is the notion of what is expected from the police on the part of the people. While protesters in America may have no illusions about the current tactics that police may be expected to employ, many of them likely share the ideal that the purpose of the police is to “protect and serve” — with the insistence however that the implied direct object of those verbs includes the rights and persons of the whole populace, not just the interests and property of the rich. 5)Of course, the whole issue of expectations has a different cast when viewed through the lens of the history of policing in, say, African-American neighborhoods, rather than at protests. The initial reaction of the crowd after the police pepper spray the UC Davis protesters is to chant “shame on you”. Whether or not anyone expects the police to actually feel that shame, the chant most certainly expresses the ideal of policing the protesters see as implied by a democratic and egalitarian society.

In other words, the position on the protesters side is the police ought to be ashamed for using the power granted to them to effect an arbitrary authoritarianism that serves only one narrow class of citizens and not the populace as a whole, that serves to curtail and manage, rather than facilitate, the exercise of the rights that make “democracy” something more than a euphemism for elites to hide behind. The history of protest policing linked above shows that, for a time at least, something much closer to this ideal of policing was achieved. And that more ideal approach can still be found in places (IIRC — I hope I have this memory attached to the correct incident — the Milwaukee police chief, at the time of the initial Scott Walker protests, issued quite good statements to the effect that the goal of the police would be to protect everyone’s — both protesters and counter-protesters — right to speak, and the policing was actually carried out in a way consistent with that). This Rachel Maddow interview with a former police captain who participated in the OWS protests provides more context.

Anyway, I’m afraid this post is a bit fragmentary — hopefully not to the point of incomprehensibility — but I’ve already delayed too long in getting a topical post like this out. All the incoherence that remains is my own and does not express the incoherence of the management. So there it is. Caveat bloggor, carpe emu, etc.

References   [ + ]

1. Having formed no particularly useful relationship with Twitter, I am unsure what to do with these other than cut and paste. I figured out how to link to a single tweet (which I do on the first one), but not to a point in a sequence.
2. BTW, the post at the link is rather good, I highly recommend it, if you haven’t come across it before.
3. In constructing this conceit, I am no doubt guilty of conflating the statement of the chancellor with those of neo-liberal defenders of the current role of Wall Street, but I suspect the connection is not unfair.
4. As my brain’s pedantic lobe insists on making clear: it is this disconnect between the will of an actual demos and the rather less dynamic categories used by the manager/rulers to understand that will that provokes my dig about statistics.
5. Of course, the whole issue of expectations has a different cast when viewed through the lens of the history of policing in, say, African-American neighborhoods, rather than at protests.

You say you want a dumb question?

I had what, in the scheme of things, may be a pointless question (or perhaps one that’s already been done to death, and I just missed it): why are we “occupying” things?

I’m not asking what the point of the Occupy movement is, or why they’re using the tactics they are, but rather, why is it called “occupying” and is that a good idea? Isn’t the metaphorical point more to remove an occupation than to engage in one?

The original “Occupy Wall Street” actually makes sense: a parody of US foreign policy being visited upon on a tiny “foreign” nation whose inhabitants have probably caused more damage to this country than any terrorists are ever likely to.

But “Occupy Oakland”? “Occupy Boston”? If “we are the 99%”, then we are Oakland, we are Boston. Isn’t the real point that the 1% are occupying us? That we are, in effect, living under their puppet regime?

Wouldn’t it make sense to use language that implies we are actually defending our homes from an abusive force rather attempting to invade something? The message to our elected leaders rulers is not necessarily “we will overthrow you”, but perhaps more like “you’re killing us, and we aren’t going to take it anymore”. That at least has the potential to be turned into an invitation to return to being the government they were, in theory, democratically elected to be — that is if they truly can, in fact, figure out how not to be elitist, authoritarian, collaborationist “rulers” (an “if” which, in most cases, is probably more about moral high ground than realistic expectation).

The “occupy” message also has the potential to make those who don’t identify with the movement feel like their land is being invaded. It risks breaking the 99% into two groups, each of which thinks they are defending their homes and families from each other. The 1% always likes that.

This is probably all moot as the “Occupy” brand has already sailed, so to speak. Perhaps, the “we are the 99%” message is enough to counteract the metaphorical problems of “occupying”. Though I still wonder what different tactics and rhetoric might be considered if the underlying message was one of defense from, well, “colonization” might be the best word for it.

Things shorebird was probably not meant to know

It’s like that part of the movie where the shorebird finds an ATV on the beach, but doesn’t know it’s the possessed ATV — the one that used to be owned by a guy who, after his girlfriend dies of bird flu, summons a demon to take revenge on feathered things everywhere, but, when he changes his mind at the last second, doesn’t succeed in banishing the demon, but only confining it in the ATV, which goes on to kill him while he’s carrying all the down pillows out of his house to dispose of them — and so, even though everyone in the audience shouts “Don’t touch the ATV!”, the helpless shorebird has it’s little bird feet frozen to the steering wheel as the ATV careens through the town knocking over fruit carts until it crashes into a guy on a buffalo and catapults the bird into a dumpster full of chocolate skittles.

Or, at least, that’s what it was supposed to be. In the end, it turned out to be more like the guy’s girlfriend was allergic to down pillows and he tried to cure her with crystals, the shorebird was playing with the starter on the ATV while a ferret was asleep on the accelerator, there aren’t any fruit carts out this time of year, no buffalo have been sighted in the area since the end of the gold standard (don’t ask), and the dumpster was actually filled with some kind of biodegradable packing material. Other than a few ruffled feathers and a slightly punch-drunk ferret there was nothing to see.

Well, nothing, that is, which would require unlocking the cabinet of Lovecraftian adjectives in order to describe the dangers awaiting whatever tender sensibilities are still possessed by 3B readers after the past decade. There is, however, a Swedish women’s choir performing an a cappella version of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” in a video that simultaneously evokes an aerobics class, Esther Williams, and Castle Anthrax.

fish vs shorebird, sort of: Use and abuse of narrative, part 4

The sheepish look on a particular shorebird at, with this post, disturbing the tranquillity of those who thought this particular brouhaha had subsided a month ago caused one of our editors to suggest filing it under “fish vs ovine”, but said editor was, to easily imaginable effect, threatened with being locked in the room with the ombudscrew.

Perhaps this post will function as a kind of outreach to the zombie community.

Either that or when the cart heralded by “Bring out your dead!” arrives, it will simply be bundled on to it, protestations that it is, in point of fact, not well characterized as “dead” notwithstanding — though whether that is because those protestations are ignored, or are, as it turns out, never made, is probably not within my purview.

Prior installments: part 1, part 2, Part 3.

Continue reading ‘fish vs shorebird, sort of: Use and abuse of narrative, part 4’

fish vs shorebird, sort of: Use and abuse of narrative, part 3

I’m sure these Acme Jet-propelled Skates will work this time.

Prior installments: part 1, part 2.

Continue reading ‘fish vs shorebird, sort of: Use and abuse of narrative, part 3’

fish vs shorebird, sort of: Use and abuse of narrative, part 2

When I put up the previous post in this mishegas, I left a comment at fish’s saying:

I’m afraid I’ve ended up engaging in disproportionate response again.

It has been suggested to me that this should be my tag line. Sadly, I can find no argument against that.

Below the fold, find “epic ploveriness” or “an amazing cure for insomnia” or “a tragic misuse of space where there should be moose jokes and Goobie pics” or “an evil ploy by sink lettuce” or whatever it is the kids are calling it these days (now with annoying Wittgensteinian numbering system!).

Continue reading ‘fish vs shorebird, sort of: Use and abuse of narrative, part 2’