Archive for the 'Philosophy' Category



21
Apr
09

Occam’s Razor, Fugue-ish Feeding, And Why I Love Dissent

Suffice to say, I have just had it with all kinds of medical practitioners. Midwives, nurses, doctors, and specialists…I’ve been awash for the last month in all their sage wisdom.

“Your daughter needs to eat more carbohydrates. She must have potatoes during every meal and desserts after. And, no, rice and beans don’t count as carbohydrates.” “Your daughter needs a tube in her ear to prevent ear infections.” “Her ears are fine.” “She has thrush, which could signal an autoimmune deficiency.” “She absolutely does not have thrush, and she’s perfectly healthy.”

This has all put me in the mindset of Dr. House, especially as I keep repeating the same medical history to each so-called “specialist.” So here’s the mystery we’re trying to solve:

My baby’s spent the first 7 months of her life in the 10-25% of weight, and the 50-75% height. When she started at daycare, she was upset. Really upset. Like, hunger strike upset. She refused all nourishment all day, and any given to her was promptly vomited back up. When I would pick her up, she would only accept breast milk, since she was looking for comfort. This went on till her first birthday, and still does to some extent (she will throw up any breakfast she eats upon entry through the door). It has, up till now, taken a month straight of visits to specialists to explain to her doctors, then, why she has dropped to the 3% in weight and 10% in height (or lower).

Also, they can’t figure out how she keeps catching ear infections.

Egads, man, when did the simplest answer to something become so goddamned elusive? I couldn’t understand this until listening yesterday to the latest “specialist” in baby care, but now I think I get it: They cannot tolerate variations on a theme.

The doctor was pounding me with rapid-fire questions for a half an hour, trying to get me to give her an example of my baby’s daily diet. Thing is, she doesn’t have a set schedule, and her tastes change daily. The doctor could not compute this, and got more and more agitated until she started barking orders at me, telling me EXACTLY what she had to eat and when. Why does my baby have to eat cereal for breakfast and not rice and beans, if she so desires? I got no answer. She did, however, go on to tell me my daughter was likely vitamin deficient, or otherwise malnourished, without a single test result to look at…just because she was confounded by a baby who ate what she wanted when she was hungry.

My husband and I have always been against excessive schedule-making when it comes to parenting, but never have I been more against it than I am now. I used to just think it was healthier for a child to be able to be flexible as far as nap times and meal times go (especially since we are public transportation junkies), but now I think it’s healthier for society in general. This is part of a larger parenting quibble we have with traditional parenting mores: “Because I said so” is a ridiculous answer to any question.

The progressive dumbing-down of societies (all this happened in Spain, but it could be anywhere) is becoming so rampant, it’s starting to terrify me, and I just see this manner of illogically foisting rules on people over whom you have authority as a highly contributive factor. Why not encourage a child (or patient) to know the reason he does what he does, or doesn’t do what he doesn’t do? Kids actually like information (hence the ubiquitous question, “Why?”), and sometimes light-hearted reasoning can really help (My nephew, who won’t eat almost anything given to him, finally ate his fish sticks when I explained that protein is what your body utilizes to grow. The terrifying prospect of being shorter than his baby cousin suddenly spurred his appetite to never-before-seen heights.)

In short, if my child’s doctor doesn’t like my daughter eating dahl for breakfast, then 😛

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06
Apr
09

Media Covers A Different Military Homecoming

It’s about time. After 18 years of an increasing disconnect between the mentality of the average human being on the ground in the U.S. and the average human being on the ground in Iraq, the media is stepping up and trying to help us put it together: War = Death.

This 30-year-old very real man, Phillip Meyers, was killed in Afghanistan on April 4. He is important. He has a family. He is not alone.

I won’t go so far as to say there’s some sort of conspiracy afoot, one meant to generated a sort of laissez faire attitude about bombs and mass graves, but part of me wishes that these wars really had been our Vietnam. Had they even proposed (in a serious way) reinstating the draft, I can’t believe Iraq would ever have been invaded. Had we watched the war on TV, I doubt very highly we could have stomached it for this long.

These images are difficult, horrible, and, yes, they will make you cry and beat your fist against walls and grit your teeth. But that’s not such a bad thing. Being connected to something in which real people are hurting on both sides is necessary to understanding why it’s so goddamned important we get out. And never go back in so cavalierly.

26
Mar
09

The Octuplets Have A Shitty Mom. Also, Sun Rises.

Call this the shock heard round the world: One of Nadya Suleman’s fired volunteer nannies is speaking out (I know, I know, how do you fire volunteers, right?), and she’s pulling no goddamned punches.

“This woman does not care for these kids,” Linda West-Conforti said on the talk show. “She is in [it] for the paparazzi, the media…Nadya only fed her babies … when a film crew was in her house,” West-Conforti said. “That’s the only time that woman ever volunteered to feed a child. And I tell you what happened: During one episode she was done feeding … she picked up the child [and] gave it to me on my chest. She didn’t burp it; she didn’t change the diaper; [she] walked out of that room and [didn’t see] her for another 12 hours.”

Now there are a lot of reasons this doesn’t surprise me. Who, after all, but a narcissist would so purposefully have so many children while being totally unsure of how to provide for them (and deprive her parents of a retirement in the process)? The main reason, though, is the following: It almost always holds that people who proclaim themselves to be expertly adept about something are, in fact, really awful at it.

Have you ever met a self-proclaimed pool shark who doesn’t scratch on the 8? A “ladies’ man” who doesn’t go home alone? An expert in French who doesn’t freeze up when the Metro attendant asks them how many tickets they’d like?

I suppose I’ve grown hyper-sensitive to it, since, being a liberal and all, I get accosted by womyn all the time. No, not “women”…womyn. They are constantly telling me what great feminists they are, and what a horrible example of a female human I am. I’ve been told what I should read, watch, listen to, and think about things on many, many occasions. While infuriating in its antithetical nature, I’ve gotten to the point where it makes me laugh. Especially because, almost invariably, these pillars of the feminist community are completely under the thumbs of some man somewhere, or, worse yet, are hoping to be. “I can’t believe you would say you think that model’s too fat for the runway! She’s got womanly curves, and she’s rightfully proud! Now excuse me while I go scope my Women’s Studies class for a sensitive man who’ll support me the rest of my life.”

Which brings me back to parenting. I have no doubt that, were I in the United States, I would be getting a lot more schooling than I do now, and I receive plenty via the phone/internet. What I’ve found, unsurprisingly, is that those who are the most adamant about their advice being the way to go are the ones who are least capable of doling it out. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism; confronted by their own lack of knowledge about something so fundamental and important, they overcompensate by trying to assert that they really know everything there is about it.

So, yeah, OctoMom, OctoPussy, Crazy Baby Lady, whatever you want to call her…the minute I read her quoted as saying this: “Everything I do, I’ll stop my life for them and be present with them. And hold them. And be with them. And how many parents do that? I’m sure there are many that do, but many don’t. And that’s unfortunate. That is selfish.” Yeah, that just REEKS of bullshit.

Speaking of which, I have to go report to two self-proclaimed genius physicists about their self-proclaimed groundbreaking research skills.

25
Mar
09

Sharing Ain’t Just For Caring Anymore

So let’s talk the internets.

When the internet first started blowing up, I remember being terrified of the consequences. The constant reminders that, “Your kids could have friends they’ve never even met,” just made it worse. Specifically, I was afraid that, because of the lack of necessity for us to leave our houses, it would make us a generation of mole people. And, while my pallor may perhaps be a result of my lerve of the online, I somehow think this here series of tubes has been more a positive influence on society than a negative.

The usual arguments, some of which I myself make, still apply: It makes people intellectually lazy (why memorize anything when it’s merely a Google search away?); it divorces people from the society around them and makes them more “active” electronically instead (why get the blisters from marching against something in reality, when you can just sign up for a Facebook group?); it makes people slaves to its will (I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets clammy palms from a temporary glitch in my connection). Still, the collaborative nature of the internet is what I think is the overall positive, and here’s why.

I’m actually kind of a purist when it comes to all things paper. I cherish newspaper-printed fingers and my boxes and boxes of books. And, while I am saddened that most people aren’t likewise emotionally linked to their wood pulp collections (meaning numerous journalistic institutions and publishing houses are being torpedoed by…well, people like me), I find the nature of the blogosphere fascinating and highly positive on the writing community, in that it’s a serious community effort.

What I mean is that, in order to get anyone to read your blog in the first place, you have to read other blogs. There is no existence within a vacuum in the online community; there is no take without give. I know that it should be the same way in the literary community in general, but I’ve found the bubble-creating nature of academia to be counterproductive to this. Once friends of mine who’ve entered the academic pursuit of studying literature did so, they had to specialize, to work at their craft, and to therefore somewhat abandon the explorative nature of the beast. While studying writing, you are (naturally) encouraged to write; while studying literature, you are encouraged to read. However, there is no rule that says that, before you have anyone at the magazine to which you’re applying read your stuff, you must read that magazine (and others), give criticisms/insight to them, and see if they respond. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a damned good idea to do so, but it’s not a necessity.

Yes, this encourages amateurs to get in the game. And, sure, there are talentless hacks (*cough cough*) that invade the process, but they exist everywhere in the literary community (hellooo, Nora Roberts!). I’m sticking to my guns, though: I believe bloggers will be an unexpected benefit to the literary community at large.

Plus, hey, free movies. Beat that with a stick.

18
Mar
09

No, Meghan McCain, This Is What Socially-Accepted Prejudice Looks Like

I recently read Meghan McCain’s idiotic blog responding to Laura Ingraham and her attack on overweight women. No, I don’t think it’s idiotic because it’s saying the attack was unwarranted and juvenile, since that’s obviously true. And, no, I don’t think it’s idiotic because it, like all her other posts, reads as though a 9-year-old wrote it. Mostly, it was this line that I objected to: Today, taking shots at a woman’s weight has become one of the last frontiers in socially accepted prejudice.

Inferring that you’re chunky is not a socially-accepted prejudice. Don’t believe me? Try reading the numerous responses written and spoken (including here) about Ingraham’s remark, all of which deem it out of line (even Bill O’Reilly admitted that). That’s not social acceptance of said prejudice; that’s a rightful repudiation.

What is socially-accepted prejudice, then? How about the kind of prejudice that rescinds 10% of the American population’s basic civil rights to live and love as they please? How about a new and growing trend in South Africa to “cure” some of these people by engaging in “corrective rape”? How about it seeming like a slur to imply our President was possibly once maybe connected to someone who might be a Muslim?

That, my poor dear, is what hate look like. And it’s nothing whatsoever like implying that Jessica Simpson was wearing something mind-bogglingly unflattering that undercut her image as a sex symbol (one, by the by, that she and her father hand-crafted and topped off with a video of her washing a car in a string bikini).

This is not to say that, seeing as weight is still a social and not a health concern in American culture, it’s not difficult for you to hear someone lambaste yours. Especially when your social circle is largely, I’m supposing, composed of wealthy women who love nothing more than to snark at anyone approaching a double-digit dress size whenever possible (my high school memories are all coming back to me now). All I’m saying is it would behoove you to show some perspective, and some respect, for people who have to somehow survive and cope with the real deal.

16
Mar
09

You Got Populism In My Activism! You Got Activism In My Populism!

Obama knows it’s coming. It’s been fomenting for a long time, but the anger is coming to a head, and pretty soon it’ll have one place to go: Him.

I’ve been staying away from the populist-based rants against the bankers somewhat, mostly because I’m so goddamned angry at them that I become a sputtering, incoherent blog of mucous (as opposed to…) shortly after beginning to even contemplate the problems. Today’s article in the Times, though, is showing that I’m far from alone, and that my impatience with the administration’s lack of punishment of these ne’er-do-wells is hardly unique.

For all his political skills and his capturing of the nation’s desire for change in the 2008 election, Mr. Obama, a product of Harvard Law School who calls upscale Hyde Park in Chicago home, has shown little inclination to strike a more populist tone. The danger, aides said, is that if he were to become identified as an advocate for the banks and Wall Street, people could take out their anger on him.

“The change now is you have a free-floating economic anxiety that has expressed itself in a kind of lashing out at those being bailed out and people who are bailing out,” Michael Kazin, a professor at Georgetown University who has written extensively on populism. “There’s not really a sense of what the solution is.”

“I do think there’s a potential for a ‘damn everybody in power’ kind of sentiment,” Mr. Kazin said.

I know that this is mostly coming to a head because of AIG’s revelation that they’re handing out a ton of bonuses. Because they’ve handled this year so well. While that, in and of itself, didn’t piss me off (can’t punish a dog for licking itself), I have to say Larry Summers did. Yes, he called them “outrageous,” but basically said the government’s hands are tied, and that no real punitive action can be taken. This, I just cannot accept. In a land where some asshat can get $6 million dollars for crashing his motor home, since he didn’t realize cruise control wasn’t self-steering, how could is POSSIBLY be that these execs (whose asses we taxpayers own now) aren’t liable for what they do with our money? Or what they don’t do (i.e. lend it)?

Add to this the banks’ staunch rebuke of EFCA (The Employee Free Choice Act, which gives employees the choice of whether they’d like anonymous votes or write-in cards to determine whether or not they unionize), which they’re financing with OUR FUCKING MONEY–and which, once again, spits in their federal overlords’ faces without fear of retribution–and the menace in me really began to build.

Finally, I checked my Bank Of America credit card balance recently to find that they’ve quintupled my interest rate. I called to find out why. Turns out my last payment arrived a day late, since their site had crashed. No late fee. Just quintupled my goddamned interest rate without notifying me. When I said, basically, “Your website fuckup sounds like YO problem,” they said they’d talk to someone higher up about lowering the rate. That was a week ago, to no avail.

I’ve had it. We’re these assholes’ bosses. They should be licking our taints with gratitude, and, instead, they’re trying to gouge us for more. Fine. I kind of expect that from the greedy fucks. But where is the oversight we were promised? How is it that they can get away with this? How can the new administration not at least threaten to fire all the execs and hire brand new people to take over. We’re in charge; we should be able to make that happen in a democracy. ESPECIALLY if these fuckwits actually take conservatives’ advice and “Go Galt.”*

So, yes, my populist buttons have all been pushed. But, the real-world application to my own life has now pushed my activist buttons as well, since I know I’m not the only one this has happened to. So, yes, this is my call to action. Don’t take this shit lying down. The banks need us (and our business) at least as much as we need them (Remember: We are paying their fucking salaries right now, and, as far as they’re concerned, forever. Asking to get our own money back, without having to pay ridiculous penalites for the honor, is NOT overstepping our bounds). Meanwhile, take your anger to Washington. Let them know there must be consequences.

My personal reasons are, of course, a bit pressing. I’d like to think I could return to the U.S. in the foreseeable future, but this shit is making that possibility seem remote, which is making me angry. (If I did, how could I buy a car, let alone a house? etc. etc…) It’s one thing to think that anti-intellectualism has pushed me out, due to the idiot-in-chief making it harder for academics to find work. It’s quite another to have the opportunities for academics grow, but be economically unable to return because of the banks WE JUST FINANCED refusing to help out. Are you fucking kidding me???

In short (too late): Let the execs “Go Galt.” The rest of us’ll “Tyler Durden” their asses to the ground. At the very least, we’ll win cause we’re so pretteh.

*In case you missed it, the latest trend in conservative punditry is to tout Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged as prophetic, and to encourage executives to do as John Galt did therein, and stop producing in protest of what he feels is unfair punishment for his success. First of all, I’ve been following this because, what better way to make your party appeal to lots and lots of people when its numbers are declining than referencing AYN RAND??? REALLY??? It would be like, when the Dems were in trouble, they started telling everyone how wonderful Cat Stevens is. Egads, man, what a stupid move. Secondly, this has just amazed me. The idea that, if EFCA passes and those mean unions can move in on the private sector, these execs should hold their breath till they go away…well, let’s put it this way: They’d be overpaid lazy assholes striking over petty reasons. Sound familiar?

12
Mar
09

Can Michelle Obama Teach Americans To Eat Right? Prolly Not.


Don’t get me wrong: I hope she succeeds in her stated goal to encourage healthful eating across the United States. And I really think, if anyone can do it, she can. (Can anyone remember such a collective swoon happening in the States at a couple’s physiques as has happened with these two? Seriously, it’s like we all have a touch of the vapors when they bare the tiniest bit of skin.)

It’s just that, as I’ve said many times before, the notion that being American means overindulging in everything is soooo ingrained, it seems impossible to extricate from our collective consciousness. Her idea to highlight overindulgence in local produce seems smart, since it’s not taking away anything (just modifying it), but it’s still a tough sell. Wearing our hyper-consumption of bacon grease (and spare tires) like a badge of honor has become de rigeur. I hope it changes, since it’s not only wildly unhealthy but also seriously costly to the American taxpayer (yes, more so than smokers or drug addicts), but I lack the hope these guys have.

Part of the reason? They’re already catching flack from our fucking Congressmen about the “tiny portions” they’re being served at the White House dinners. If these guys (who, I hate to say it, are actually role models to a lot of people) can’t suck it up and set an example, I just don’t know if this idea can sell.

It’s not just about the food either. It seems to be a generally accepted notion in the U.S. to sort of expect free lunches, if you will. The legends of people pulling themselves up by the bootstraps aside, we seem to expect to just be given things without working very hard or long at them. It could be my generational lack of patience with everything (blame Sesame Street!), our proliferation of easily-available fast food, or who knows what; cutting corners to get ahead just seems to be the new American dream. Sure, we want the chiseled bodies of our new leaders, but we don’t soooo much want to put in the hours at the gym or eat like they do.

Part of this also stems from our reluctance to tell people they’re not special in some way. From high school teachers no longer being able to correct grammar, to the SAT’s being easier to ace, we seem to be unable to tell our children that everything they do and are isn’t exceptionally perfect, lest we damage their self esteem. I understand this desire. Really. I constantly tell my daughter how wonderful she is, and I loathe the notion that one day she won’t feel that way. But my greatest hope is for her to one day truly accept herself, scars and all, and I know that me constantly denying she has any faults won’t help.

So, yeah, there are a lot of reasons I think Michelle might fail. But, then again, I had many more reasons I thought I’d never see a president elected who is smart, handsome, and in love with his family, so fuck do I know, right?