May 31, 2009

You lying bastard.

This is pretty fucked up. Rationalizations aside, this really can't be read as anything but a massive invasion of privacy, wholesale stealing of (likely) copyrighted content and a truly pathological misrepresentation. I'm sharply reminded of the whole JT LeRoy fiasco a while back, especially in that whoever it is continues to make obvious lies--almost as though they wanted to be caught, or couldn't help themselves.

As a fan, even though the paladin stuff had little or nothing to do with the personal stuff, I feel betrayed. I trusted her/him.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's some lawsuits in the future, but "Ferarro" probably has some serious psychological problems.

This is just one more reminder of how deeply creepy the internet can be. *shiver*

May 30, 2009

Essay of the week

Nathaniel Branden was a long-time companion of Ayn Rand until their bitter separation in 1968. His essay The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand is worth reading, and not just for his criticism of her philosophy--there are also some good parts that generally get glossed over because her political conclusions are frankly ridiculous. Of course, less-recent philosophers like Aristotle are not subject to such treatment. Though I find Rand's philosophy generally awful, I have to admit there are some worthwhile bits.

This brings me back to Gevlon, who is often called an innovative WoW blogger, often bringing new ideas to the game. What he really is, though, is an unrepentant Randian before the (likely inevitable) disillusionment. I have vaguely believed this, but not being especially familiar with Objectivism I hadn't really laid it down precisely. But Branden nails him to a T:
[...]

If you read her books, or her essays in The Objectivist, or if you listen to her lectures, you will notice with what frequency and ease she branded any viewpoint she did not share as not merely mistaken but “irrational” or “mystical.” In other words, anything that challenged her particular model of reality was not merely wrong but “irrational” and “mystical”—to say nothing, of course, of its being “evil,” another word she loved to use with extraordinary frequency.

[...]

Another aspect of her philosophy that I would like to talk about—one of the hazards—is the appalling moralism that Ayn Rand herself practiced and that so many of her followers also practice. I don’t know of anyone other than the Church fathers in the Dark Ages who used the word “evil” quite so often as Ayn Rand.

[...]

So, you are left with this sort of picture of your life. You either choose to be rational or you don’t. You’re honest or you’re not. You choose the right values or you don’t. You like the kind of art Rand admires or your soul is in big trouble. For evidence of this last point, read her essays on esthetics (Rand, 1970). Her followers are left in a dreadful position: If their responses aren’t “the right ones,” what are they to do? How are they to change? No answer from Ayn Rand. Here is the tragedy: Her followers’ own love and admiration for her and her work become turned into the means of their self-repudiation and self-torture. I have seen a good deal of that, and it saddens me more than I can say.

Let’s suppose a person has done something that he or she knows to be wrong, immoral, unjust, or unreasonable: instead of acknowledging the wrong, instead of simply regretting the action and then seeking, compassionately, to understand why the action was taken and asking where was I coming from? and what need was I trying in my own twisted way to satisfy?—instead of asking such questions, the person is encouraged to brand the behavior as evil and is given no useful advice on where to go from there. You don’t teach people to be moral by teaching them self-contempt as a virtue.

[..]

To look on the dark side, however, part of her vision of justice is urging you to instant contempt for anyone who deviates from reason or morality or what is defined as reason or morality. [emphasis added] Errors of knowledge may be forgiven, she says, but not errors of morality. Even if what people are doing is wrong, even if errors of morality are involved, even if what people are doing is irrational, you do not lead people to virtue by contempt. You do not make people better by telling them they are despicable. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work when religion tries it and it doesn’t work when objectivism tries it.

This last paragraph was particularly interesting for me. I had often wondered how someone who claims to be rational (e.g., eschewing any vanity mount of any sort), could often in the same post display scathing, arrogant scorn for the academia, or the continent of Africa, or the poor.

Normally one thinks of the rational person avoiding ad hominems and focusing exclusively on the factual basis of whatever they're talking about. But Gevlon can't let a single philosophical post pass without calling someone an idiot, moron, parasite, do-nothinger (kind of like the "looters" in Atlas Shrugged). Now you know why.

May 26, 2009

Partial Review: Infinite Jest

I find the practice of reviewing a book before you're done with it rather silly, but the book in question is massive and I'd like to get this down to see if my opinion changes by the end (which might be a long time.)

Infinite Jest: so far, a bit all over the place. Too much detail, too many characters, and too much covered. I suspect that's the point--but as the reader, being bludgeoned into submission isn't so far too enjoyable. By page 300 (and the pages are large with small print), there are still new characters, new styles, and new themes being introduced. I find the possibility of a satisfactory ending--in which all the threads are tied off in some sense--remote.

With that said, the writing is excellent, the characters are interesting, if slightly too fucked up and intelligent. It's fun to read, which is a major plus for "literary" fiction. (I find Pynchon like reading a mashed potatoes/cement mixture.) It's also very funny.

Stay tuned for the wrap-up.

Attitude

Check it: The Pink Pigtail Inn. Larisa has to be one of the most heartwarming bloggers I've ever seen. Even Gevlon has nothing but nice things to say to her.

She says the things about Warcraft that were sort of floating around half-formed in my head, but says them better and with more feeling. Kudos.

Oddly Captivating.



I've been listening to this a lot for the last week or so. Not sure why, but it seems like others share my feeling.

May 21, 2009

Ayn Rand

Always remember: "Atlas Shrugged is a stupid book, Ayn Rand is a stupid woman, and John Galt’s ideas are stupid."

The Experience

As a sometimes blogger, we all go through the phases of finding someone utterly wrongheaded on the internet. First you think, well, this person sounds sort of reasonable, I'll try to convince them with very careful language.


When that fails, and the person probably insults your mother or something, then you get a little riled up and write an extensive reply.
Enter Gevlon. Tobold had a similar experience with him awhile back. He's very good at making gold in WoW, good enough that he actually hit the gold cap which is something like 214,000 gold. He's also an diagnoser of human ills, and looks at everything from a holier-than-thou Ayn Rand sort of perspective, with a good dose of standard conservative prating about socialism thrown in for good measure. It's grating, but I foolishly tried to engage.

Then today, he honestly jumped the shark. He tried to argue that all poor people--mentioning Africa specifically--have a way to financial success just like rich people, and to prove it cited the Somali pirates and drug dealing. Seriously.

I wrote a longish comment saying basically that it was borderline racist to say something like that, and if your definition of a lucrative job is one where you have a decent chance of fighting Navy fucking SEALS, then you're out to lunch (in nicer terms).

I'd tell you what I said explicitly, but he deleted my comment. Long story short, if you see someone truly out there, don't bother trying to convince them. You won't. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop responding to him--I think the process of disagreeing with someone can help sharpen your own logic a lot, and writing practice is always good--but there's no hope of convincing him, or anyone else for that matter.

Warcraft

Been tutoring on and off. Got a job at a grocery store for the time being, which has been very interesting.

I also starting playing World of Warcraft, which has been an interesting experience. More on that later.