ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

May 2006

Musings31 May 2006

Harper’s decided to publish “those cartoons”. You know the ones I mean.

Chapter/Indigo decided to pull the June issue of the magazine from their shelves.

I bought my copy at the grocery store yesterday. I figured I should snag it before other companies jumped on the bandwagon. I didn’t do this because I’m desperate to see the cartoons (I do know how to use google…) but because I like Harper’s and didn’t want to miss a whole month due to some blasphemous sketches.

I’ve read the offending article. It’s a piece called “Drawing Blood” by Pulitzer Prize- winning American cartoonist Art Spiegleman, a self described secular jew and “devout coward”.

Spiegleman’s thesis is that the late “cartoon controversy” had little to do with the actual cartoons, to the point where most people, be they those who rioted to protest their printing, or those who rallied to the support of the Dutch paper and “freedom of the press”, or those (like me) who puzzled over exactly what this all means, haven’t actually seen them. To Spiegleman, who cares deeply about cartoons as a medium, this is a sad state of affairs. Thus, his piece in Harper’s is probably the first thoughtful writing anyone has done about the cartoons themselves. He analyzes each of the offending twelve in detail in terms of its message and artistic merit.

The article goes on to discuss other offensive cartoons, including a selection from the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as some choice offerings from the Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest, and the answering Israeli “Nobody outdoes the Jews at Jew-hating” cartoon contest.

Spiegelman also gives us his take on the surrounding controversy. He doesn’t buy the stated motives for the original decision to commission the cartoons:

[T]he Jyllands-Posten – a newspaper with a history of anti-imigrationt bias – seemed somewhat disingenuous when it wrapped itself in the mantle of free speech to invite cartoonists to throw pies at the face of Muhammad last September. The instigating editor claimed to be inspired by a Danish author’s complaints that no illustrator would come forward to collaborate on a children’s book about the Prophet for fear of giving offense. But the editor didn’t invite illustrators to step up to the plate; he invited cartoonists. Cartoonists! A breed of troublemakers by profession! The already put-upon Danish Muslim community walked right into the double-bind of feeling the intended insult, only to be told, when they protested, that they didn’t understand Western values of free speech.

He also has few kind words for the western media that decided not to reprint them:

As a maker of graven images, I found the New York Times’ February 7 editorial rationale for not showing the offensive cartoon downright offensive. They called it “a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words”, although they never even described most of the cartoons verbally. Too easy, I guess.

I heard Spiegelman on As It Happens last night and he called the Chapters/Indigo decision to pull the magazine “The latest in a long line of well-intentioned blunders” in the cartoon affair. I tend to agree. His article is the most sense I’ve heard anyone make on the subject. You should all read it and see what he has to say. You’ll have to find a news stand not owned by Chapters, though.

News28 May 2006

The doctor didn’t actually say that, but that is what her manner conveyed. I went to the after-hours clinic today on the grounds that “every time I swallow it feels like my ear is going to explode”. I thought I had an ear infection or something. Turns out I’m just a wuss with a sore throat.

On the way home I bought a milkshake from a cute girl with piercings and red streaks dyed in her hair, so the trip to the clinic wasn’t a total loss.

Note to self: buy more milkshakes.

Musings24 May 2006

She said, “I don’t think you understand me”
I said, “Come on, ‘course I do”
She said, “No, I really don’t think so”
I said, “Well, then I guess I don’t”

From Dan Bern’s New American Language

The theme of this post shall (dubiously) be “failures to communicate”. The first failure under discussion is my own failure to update this “blaugh” of mine in over a week. This is probably a bigger issue for me than it is for you, my dear readers, because I like to use this thing to “keep my skills sharp”, as it were. Trying to write something coherent every couple of days is good practice.

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News16 May 2006

Well I’m having a helluva week and it’s only Tuesday.

My “week” has thus far been characterized by two events, each of them reflecting the culmination of two separate (but oddly intertwined) themes that have been playing out for roughly these last 10 days.

And I’m not going to talk about either of them! At least, not in detail on the interweb.

Event A took place on Sunday afternoon (and I respectfully submit that there is no finer time of the week than a good Sunday afternoon) and I can only construe it as positive.

Event B, on the other hand, which happened to someone other than me on Monday night was definitely bad.

Oh, and in the interest of getting my thesis finished, I spent Tuesday learning LaTeX, which isn’t really traumatic or bedazzling, but it is kind of fun. My supervisor said that LaTeX makes your documents “beautiful”, and that’s a word he usually reserves for talking about math.

Anyhow, last few days have been more “exciting” than I’m used to and have left me a little bewildered. I just bought a new Otis Taylor album and I’m finding the song “Lost My Horse” to be very apropos.

Food and Musings11 May 2006


Natural evolution of human language, or sign of the apocalypse?

Most of the time when you hear something couched in such polarized language, you are facing a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is, of course, that best of logical fallacies: one asserts that it’s either A or B, with no room for A-and-a-half. “You’re either with us or against us”, no middle ground.

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News05 May 2006

They have chocolate fountains there.

And also, art.

I went to an opening at Gallery 78 with some of my research friends and associated hangers-on. I had a good time: we looked in every nook and cranny, largely guided by Dave, who spontaneously transformed himself into an art critic. I think I was most impressed by the sculptures, including a porcelain vase shaped to support a two-dimensional figure sketched on the side.

The other neat thing about gallery openings is the free food. Looking at art is made ever so much fun when you’ve got a glass of wine in your hand, and you can take breaks to dip pieces of fruit into a flowing fountain of liquid chocolate. Mmmm.

Books and Musings04 May 2006

Yesterday something Squire James said made me suddenly want to read some nice lightweight fiction. I haven’t braved a Tom Clancy novel in a year or two, and it suddenly felt like that was exactly what I wanted to read.

I’m not necessarily a Tom Clancy fan, though I did read a lot of his books while I was a teenager. I think my desire to read one now is a bit like wanting to spend the day eating corn chips in front of a Battlestar Galactica original series marathon. It’s not high art, it’s not particularly edifying, but it is good entertainment once in a while.

The only problem is, I was feeling like reading some Clancy right then and, after poking through my bookshelves on the hope that one of his novels had spontaneously generated itself, I was forced to conclude that I had no Tom Clancy to read. I settled instead of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”. Eco is a medievalist and scholar who occasionally writes clever novels that draw on his wide knowledge of things historical and religious.

It struck me that this is probably the first time anyone chose Eco as a substitue for Tom Clancy for anything. I mean, there aren’t even any F-16s! Oh well, I guess I’ll cope. =)

News02 May 2006

The power went out at my place tonight. Not sure if the cause was a bit of thunder or human incompetence. No matter.

Plunged mostly into darkness, I intrepidly found my way to the flashlight, and then to a candle, and from there to some matches. In short order I was basking in the flicker of some seriously old-school illumination. I actually rather like power outages (provided I’ve got nothing that immediately needs doing which requires moving electrons). A power outage is a bit like having school canceled on account of snow – it’s an unscheduled (and forced) bit of “time off”. When the lights give out there’s not much to do but take a deep breath, light some candles, and put your feet up.

I played my guitar for a while: some nice mellow music to go with the candlelight and the rain tapping on the window.

Okay, now I feel a bit guilty. I’ve set this up as a tale of technology being defeated by a thunder storm, and yours truly being forced to eschew the ADD world of the internet for some relaxing music making, and now I’m going to go and dash that image.

See, my laptop, like most, has a battery that lasts a few hours. So, by the by, I sat my guitar down and decided to pass the time working on a little extra-curricular coding project I’ve got going.

Programming by candlelight. I thought to myself “this is what the victorian coders must have done”.