Thursday, February 21, 2008

Torrential Downpour: a lot of really stupid stuff

My image of Dostoevsky
When I think of Dostoevsky, I don't picture the slight, refined man you see on the right. I picture a big, burly fellow, with long wild hair, an unkempt beard, and mad, crazy eyes. The sort of man who stands up to roar. The sort of man who moves with heavy, powerful motions, whose passion and energy exudes from his very being. It's the only way I can picture a man who writes characters so consumed with passion and ideas.

But as a reader, do I really need a real Dostoevsky? Oh, I know of the mock execution, of Siberia, of conversion. But for the creator of the characters that burst across his novels, do I need the real man, or do I only need the metaphoric image of his soul I've created in my head?

So the creators of Across the Universe make a musical using Beatles' songs. And they have a character named Sadie. But..."Sexy Sadie" is nowhere to be found in the film.

The Stupid Thing I Believe (about Animal Rights)
I believe that by committing to animal rights, one stands further to the left. As a vegetarian, I'm more left-wing than my liberal but meat-eating friends.

Now, I'm guessing most left-wing folks see animal rights as a completely separate point from progressive attitudes on human issues. I think I'm taking the principles of a progressive worldview further and applying them to animals. What do you think? This is the stupid thing I believe: is it really stupid?

For more, see my two posts on a moral link between pacifism and vegetarianism (1 and 2).

The sort of conversations that occasionally occur in my house
PV: I don't need therapy. Dostoevsky is my therapist. Shakespeare is my therapist. Milton is my therapist.
C-FM: How delightfully pretentious of you.

PV: You spilled there too.
C-FM: No, that was the work of one rogue olive.

PV: What did people do in the Middle Ages?
(this is my response to just about anything that I don't want to do. Usually the answer is something bad).

Another victory for the way of all flesh
I heard a reporter refer to Fidel Castro's resignation as a "symbolic victory." Victory for whom? Time? Age? Illness? No individual or group resistance and no government policy was able to force Castro from power for nearly 50 years--I'm not entirely sure whom we're supposed to assign "victory" to, even a symbolic one.

Timothy Egan in "Book Lust:"

"For most of my lifetime, I’ve heard that reading is dead. In that time, disco has died, drive-in movies have nearly died, and something called The Clapper has come and gone through bedrooms across the nation.

"But reading? This year, about 400 million books will be sold in the United States."

Scott McLemee and Kim Paffenroth in "Zombie Nation:"

"Q: In the New Testament, Jesus dies, then comes back to life. His followers gather to eat his flesh and drink his blood. I am probably going to hell for this, but .... Is Christianity a zombie religion?

"A: I think zombie movies want to portray the state of zombification as a monstrous perversion of the idea of Christian resurrection. Christians believe in a resurrection to a new, perfect state where there will be no pain or disease or violence. Zombies, on the other hand, are risen, but exist in a state where only the basest, most destructive human drive is left — the insatiable urge to consume, both as voracious gluttons of their fellow humans, and as mindless shoppers after petty, useless, meaningless objects. It’s both a profoundly cynical look at human nature, and a sobering indictment of modern, American consumer culture."


  1. I learned that utilitarians are for animal rights. Their reasoning is because animals can feel pleasure and pain and that is all that matters. It doesn't matter if they can reason, communicate, or show signs of intelligence. You probably already encountered this information since you're on those PETA sites all the time, but I kind of thought that it was interesting.

  2. In my experience, a lot of contemporary arguments for animal rights rely partly on new scientific research about animal intelligence--that's actually what pushed me over the edge. But the concept of animal rights has an interesting history.

  3. Actually, I use a pretty utilitarian argument now: the life of the animal is worth more than the pleasure of the taste of meat.