Announcing a Change

Most of my readership were friends with me on Facebook. I'm sure that some of you have noticed that I have deactivated my Facebook account. I don't consider this to be a permanent thing, but I do consider my Facebook hiatus to be indefinite. My motives are the common ones: too much wasted time, an inordinate desire to share things, an obsession with trivia that bordered on the neurotic, etc.* I have yet to regret my choice, although, as I said, I may come back some day.

In the meantime, I find myself lacking an outlet for sharing the few things that I think I really ought to be sharing, which is why I have decided to make a return to Pleonast.✝ Pleo offers a few distinct advantages over Facebook. It allows (if not encourages) long-form writing, which FB decidedly discourages. It also supports HTML, so I can emphasize things without resorting to asterisks, and I can denote book and film titles without resorting to angle brackets. It's also less convenient than FB, which I consider a mark in Pleo's favor, since FB's greater convenience encourages the evils that drove me away from the medium in the first place. Perhaps Pleo's most useful inconvenience is its old-school non-mobile design, which will (I hope) discourage me from turning to it on my phone.

This has been a long time coming, really. I'm glad I finally took the step of deactivating my FB account just when the impulse to do so hit me. Social media use is very much like an addiction.

Thanks for your time and your friendship, and I hope to see you again here soon.


* I could expound on this at great length.
✝ IFTTT automatically copies my Pleo posts to Tumblr, but I won't be logging in there to check for reblogs, favorites, etc.
  • thepoeticmadman
    Dooooooooon't care.

    But seriously, kudos for recognizing a problem and making a change.
    by thepoeticmadman at 08/30/16 6:22PM

"On Distraction," which I wrote instead of grading school-work

The mind so timidly runs astray
Toward faintest pleasures and trifling matters,
I cheaply sell my only day.

To write a poem seems so gay,
Or to imagine how others may flatter;
The mind so timidly runs astray.

All the pressing tasks I flee today
Fall onto tomorrow's hidden platter.
I cheaply sell my only day.

One cannot long dwell on death or decay,
The remnants of time's pitter-patter.
The mind so timidly runs astray.

Make all those troubles fly away!
I wish only to grow older and fatter!
I cheaply sell my only day.

When over me my children weep and pray,
Will they then turn to things that matter?
Or will their minds so timidly run astray
From thinking how cheaply I sold my only day.

Give Me a Little Space

The European Space Agency's recent feat, landing the Philae probe onto the surface of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, has rightly impressed us all. This is a major feat of engineering, and Philae promises to revolutionize the way we understand comets and their impact on our planet (pun intended; please forgive). But I have often heard a refrain, of which I found myself guilty yesterday on Facebook: that the Philae landing is a major accomplishment not just for ESA but for "humanity."

Consider the meaning of the sentiment. The mass culture that has grown up around space exploration often seems to assume that man must first unite on Earth before moving into space. Every major accomplishment in space is met by a chorus of voices chiding us about the division that still reigns on Earth. After all, interstellar travel seems unattainable by a divided humanity; the technology and the resources it requires seem too daunting for any one nation to achieve. Star Trek controls the narrative here: the United Federation of Planets begins with a United Earth government. The ISS mirrors the sentiment of that narrative: space will unite man.

What if it actually works the other way? What if, instead of cementing human unity, interplanetary and interstellar travel instead promote a new, expansive nationalism? Biology seems to support the idea: populations which separate geographically tend to diverge in other ways as well. Humanity would have to exercise extraordinary deliberation in order to escape this path of least resistance. Considering how poorly we have resisted the Babel effect here on Earth, I doubt our success out among the stars.

Remember that the Third Reich sought lebensraum. What is interstellar colonization, if not unlimited lebensraum? In boundless space, Nazis or their intellectual descendants could conceivably control a world or a whole star system without drawing anyone's ire, escaping notice in some remote corner of space. All of the ideologies and nations of Earth could hold their own planets and systems, free of entanglement and conflict with each other--though, in some cases, still entangled with Earth itself. There would be nothing like the "pivot to Asia" in space, because the American planets wouldn't give a damn what the Chinese do with their own space. They wouldn't need to: space is infinite.

We also assume that space will set us free. "Being set free" and "space" are closely related concepts, after all. But imagine an America that didn't have to rub elbows with other, culturally distinct nations. It would be unrecognizable to today's America. Cultural homogeneity has its perks, but it doesn't set baklava and curry at the same table; nor does it shelve Aristotle and Confucious in the same library. Rich liberalism and diverse experience have always walked hand-in-hand. Space may well doom diverse human civilizations to mutual isolation and homogeneity for the rest of time, locked in their own light-years-wide prisons.

I lack the vision to pursue this question further in the time which I have allowed myself for composing these brief thoughts. Space may--probably shall--complicate the concepts of ideological affiliation, cultural and national identity, and many other such things that exceed the narrow bounds of "Earth politics." I must leave you to consider, then: are we, with our space programs, advancing humanity into space, or are we laying the groundwork which will ultimately end "humanity" as we know it?
  • aldebaran
    You've been playing a lot of Alpha Centauri, I find, seeing as Sid Meier separated the factions by ideology rather than race, nationality, or previous geographical proximity. I do not mean that you seem to be going the same direction, but it brings up some interesting questions. While he dealt with what seemed to be the extremes of each, I wonder about the inevitable sects within those extremes and of the various other groups that make up the entirety of those ideologies. Perhaps it will reach an apex -- or perhaps nadir would be more appropriate -- with each individual person occupying his own planet or inhabitable moon. I have much more faith in humanity than that, however.
    by aldebaran at 11/13/14 11:16PM
  • aldebaran
    And, dear brother, please watch your language.
    by aldebaran at 11/13/14 11:16PM

Notes: "The 2014 Midterm Elections" or "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

Republicans now hold both chambers of Congress, but conservatives shouldn't get all that excited. Here are a few reasons:

- The results express dissatisfaction with the Obama administration rather than any approval of the GOP.
- Though the GOP won in a few unusual places, such as the Illinois governor's mansion, most of the GOP's gains came from the expected places. The 2016 landscape is much less friendly to the GOP.
- Demographics still favor the Democrats heavily. The dynamics of midterm elections merely masked that this year; even then, many of the GOP's winners won narrowly.
- The GOP presidential field for 2016 is nebulous, if not weak. Many strong personalities and competent executives populate the field--e.g., Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio--but none of them stand out as presidential matieral.
- Even assuming a Republican takes the White House in 2016 and Republicans maintain control over Congress, give the occasion some thought: do you really expect "conservative" values, especially fiscal values, to reign supreme in the such a situation? I invite you to reconsider the presidency of George W. Bush. I love the man, but let us say this about him: his was not the thriftiest hand.
  • engelishgentleman
    Agreed that some people seem unduly excited at the moment. Boehner and McConnell couldn't lead water downhill, yet they're the GOP establishment's leaders in whom we're expected to trust? I mean, I expect them to do *less harm* than Pelousy and Dingy Harry, but in the absence of leaders who appear competent and principled, my hopes aren't that high right now.
    by engelishgentleman at 11/06/14 10:22PM

Learning from the Sins of a Fictional Public Prosecutor

"'Am I speaking to my husband--or to a judge?' stammered Madame de Villefort.
'To a judge, madame, to a judge!'" - from The Count of Monte Cristo
Pro tip: always speak to your spouse as a spouse, even--especially--when your spouse is worthy of meeting a judge.
  • engelishgentleman
    This has to be among most abstruse forms of humor you've ever displayed.
    by engelishgentleman at 12/09/13 6:31PM
  • spellgage
    I honestly wasn't intending to be humorous. The quotation comes from near the end of The Count of Monte Cristo when Monsieur de Villefort learns that his wife has been poisoning various family members in order to secure an inheritance. Villefort, a public prosecutor who sees himself as a "statue of the law," mercilessly confronts Madame de Villefort and tells her that he will prosecute her himself unless she poisons herself--which, he says, would be preferable for maintaining the family honor. Although Madame de Villefort is a criminal and needs to come to justice, Monsieur de Villefort has wronged her by refusing to relate to her as her husband, preferring instead to relate to her as a judge.
    by spellgage at 12/10/13 9:22PM
  • engelishgentleman
    Aha. Makes sense. Interesting. Thank you for supplying further context.
    by engelishgentleman at 12/10/13 9:36PM