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About NickOtani

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    Philosophy and Literature
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    Spokane, WA

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  1. I saw a television movie last week about the relationship between Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. It was good. I vaugely knew they were once a comedy team and broke up, but I didn't know the whole story. The movie brought out how the personalities of each of these guys grated on the other. Dean was the suave, good-looking man who was laid back, easy going, and with a great singing voice. Jerry Lewis was the idiot, the guy with the slap stick, physical antics which got laughs. He could mimic in exagerated ways which poked fun at those he copied. He played the fool to Dean's straight man. However, the critics gave him credit for having comedic talent, for livining up Dean's act. Jerry did put lots of effort into his routines, and Dean seemed to be too causal about everything. He would show up at the last minute and not rehearse or work hard. When either of them showed up for a solo performance, they were introduced as one half of the team of Martin and Lewis, or Lewis and Martin. Martin was also less uptight about morals than was Lewis. He would sleep around, cheat on his wife. Lewis felt more guilty about this than did Dean. They finally broke up and did thier last routine at the Copacobana in 1956. Dean is the one who called it quits, but they both seem ready to be on their own. Jerry kept making funny movies and was successful. Dean had some problems at first but then co-started in serious movies like "Rio Bravo" with John Wayne and Rick Nelson. He also fell in with the Rat Pact, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Bing Crosby, and others. His records kept selling, and he had his own variety show which did well. He did Matt Helm movies which, like in his variety shows, he simply walked through, playing himself. Later, he hosted the Celebrity Roasts which were wildly entertainint. Jerry is now doing the yearly telethons for MS. Dean died in 1995. He never recovered from his son's death in an plane crash. The television movie only cover up until the brake up between Martin and Lewis, but it got me interested in checking out a few of the classic movies from the video rental places. It was neat to see stars like Shirley McClaine when she was real young and sexy. And, I have my own copy of one of the Matt Helm movies. While watching these things, I couldn't help but compare Dean Martin to one of my favorite stars, Elvis Presley. Martin did have a better singing voice. He also had more talent in many ways. (Bing Crosby could sing better than either of them and even Frank Sinatra, IMO.) bis bald, Nick
  2. Whatever. I am aware that some people try to control me in various ways. They should read the "I" speech from "Anthem" or my post on Prufrock and Henley. I am not unhappy with myself or the image I project. I'm not really bothered by other people who disapprove of me, and I do not live my life to please them. Have a good day. bis bald, Nick
  3. In the issue of 2001-12-24 of the NewYorker, John Updike discusses a new collection of essays by Czeslaw Milosz, the 1980 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Milosz originally came from Poland but has lived in America, working in the Slavic department of the University of California at Berkely since 1960. Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain, he travels back and forth between Berkeley and Poland. He is now in his 90's but continues to write, both essays and poems. He lived in Lithuania, which was part of the Russian Empire up to 1918. He moved, in 1937, to Warsaw, where he endured the Second World War and took part in the anti-Nazi underground. He defected to Paris in 1951, then came his eventual residence in the United States and citizenship. Updike comments that such a life "-unlike, say, that of Wordsworth or Wallace Stevens-cannot be imported into poetry without threatening to steal the show from the reflections and expressions it engenders." Here is a glimse at just one thing he experienced: Updike comments, "All too smoothly, he sketches a progression from Luther to Rousseau and Nietzsche and thence to the Nazi "worshippers of the magnificent beast in man" and Alfred Rosenberg, the infamous minister of the German-occupied eastern territories and the author of racist theories that radicalized the young Hitler." Updike goes on to show how Milosz remains true to the teachings of his childhood's priestly instructors, is still a practicing Catholic. "This fact seems to leave him, as much as anything, bemused. The poem "Helene's Religion," from the 1998 collection "Road-Side Dog," might well describe his own:" "It goes on," says Updike, "to express a credo, a quasi-Thomist proof:" Updike goes on to explain a few things Milosz said in his essays. He said that if he could be convinced people could be moral under their own powers, he would not be interested in Christianity. Milosa thinks men are too dominated by self-love. "Alas, our fundamental experience is duality: mind and body, freedom and necessity, evil and good, and certainly world and God. It is the same with our protest against pain and death. In the poetry I select [in his anthology "A Book of Luminous Things"], I am not seeking an escape from dread but, rather, proof that dread and reverence can exist within us simultaneously." My reaction: I don't think a big ghost in the sky will help man be moral, and I don't think the problem with man is self-love. Self-love is good, not bad. Adrianne Rich has the same idea of "I," that it fragments, that "we" is really singing the song of one's self. It's the opposite of Rand's "Anthem," the "we" is really the problem. Milosz loves dualism and contradiction. He sees monisms as nihilizing pressures. No, he'd rather live in his dream world with God running everything, even when he knows it doesn't make sense. Making too much sense just turns people into heartless machines. I don't agree. bis bald, Nick
  4. Most of us recognize that we are observing a different culture, the Memphis Black scene. Words like “Bitch” and “Ho” are just second nature to them, and the “F” word is spread all over. Nobody gets shocked by it. I have known Black people from Memphis, but the current culture is different than what it was ten years ago. As soon as we get to the point where we understand the slang, it has to change. It’s an unwritten law. Still, even if we have to strain, which is good for us, it isn’t hard to recognize that this guy is struggling and has a dream. As different as he is from us, we can identify with him. I can write my own rap song with a hook like “It’s hard out there for a sub, someone students will take advantage of.” I hustle too, in my own way. And, when I saw that Skinny Black (Ludacris) threw DJay’s tape into the toilet, it reminded me of John Steinbeck’s short story “The Chrysanthemums.” What some of us value with all our might, others consider garbage. It’s a cold truth. I liked how the White girl took on responsibility and found her skills at marketing the tapes at the radio stations. It was redemption for her. She found she could be more than poor white trash. Still, I don’t put rap music on the same qualitative level as the music of Mozart. After watching Amadeus, I remarked that his music was a long way from “It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp.” And I still think that is true. Bis bald, Nick
  5. The two main characters in Brokeback Mountain are regular guys who shared an experience while alone in an isolated environment. They didn’t expect it. They didn’t think of themselves as homosexuals. There was self-deception. There was concern about acceptance from society, and that concern was ultimately shown to be justified. Letting some people know one is a homosexual can be deadly in some places. It is dangerous. Many stories about love end in tragedy. There are parallels between Brokeback Mountain and Romeo and Juliet or The Great Gatsby. It’s the forbidden love syndrome. People try to pursue goals which will get them in trouble. They have to keep secrets, and those secrets sometimes backfire. It’s sad. There have been homosexuals in philosophy who didn’t know how to handle it. Alan Turing was one. He was persecuted and ultimately committed suicide. The world lost a great mind. There is a lot of hatred out there, even if one is not a homosexual. I hate it. I wouldn't mind being isolated in a mountain wilderness, as those cowboys were. It was beautiful country. However, I'd still need to have my internet connection to communicate with other people once in awhile, even if it is to be criticised and abused by jerks and faced again and again with disappointment. bis bald, Nick
  6. It is also a movie worth seeing, one that makes us think of the issues. This time, it is sexual harassment. It's a movie, like Norma Ray, about one person against the herd, until others begin to stand with her. I know that women have it rough in some environments. I've been in the Army and saw changes over the years, from when Drill Sergeants taught us about our M16s by comparing them to women, saying that if we treat them nice, stroke them gently, they will respond for us the way we want them to. We sang dirty lyrics in our cadence chants, like “between her legs, she wore a bloody rag. …” I worked in bars where women were constantly objectified. And, I’ve worked in a steal foundry, around big machines and dirt and heat, where we had to wear steel toed shoes and hard hats. I’ve seen women cry when they see something nasty written about them on the walls. On the other hand, I’ve also seen them given nice clean jobs and paid the same as men who do the dirty work. I’ve seen things go too far in the other direction, where some female got offended by a picture on a calendar, so now all the magazines in the lobby have only pictures of animals and landscape, not people. Yes, women have a right not to be attacked and not be coerced. They have a right to be respected, not joked about and objectified, but they have to be a little tough, not so easily offended in the workplace. Where we draw the line and how things should be worked out is still being worked out. This movie helps to raise our consciousness about this issue. Bis bald, Nick
  7. This shows how Edward R. Murrow took on Joseph R. McCarthy, and it was really accurate, using actual dialogue, when known, and coming as close as possible to what actually happened. It even used actual footage from film of the real McCarthy. In some of the newsreel footage, we see glimpses of Bobby Kennedy and other real people. The movie was in black and white, like Shindler’s List, and it captures the mood of the times. It’s good for Americans to see this. Many may not even know who Murrow and McCarthy are. It’s sad how little people know about history. People have done stupid things in history. We burned witches. We had the McCarthy era. We put Japanese into relocation centers. Today, we support another unjustified war, like Vietnam was, and things like torture and wiretapping. In Spokane, people voted out a mayor who was later cleared of any wrong doing by a federal investigation. Unproven accusations, even after all our education, still really hurt people. Murrow had to interview Liberace, Micky Rooney, Hoody Duddey and other frivolous personalities. Going after McCarthy was more of a challenge for him, and it was dangerous. They lost their sponser. Some critics disagreed with Murrow, and McCarthy attacked Murrow, trying to prove that Murrow was a Communist. Some people think messageboards should be just frivolous. We shouldn’t really take stands and fight battles here. In the end, Murrow and Joe Welch and Eisenhower took down McCarthy, but the man should never have had that power. I really liked Clooney’s speech at the Academy Awards. He credited Hollywood with being a little out of step with the rest of society, meaning that movies sometimes challenge us, stimulate us to think. They take on controversial topics and facilitate change. Perhaps messageboards can do that to some extent too. Good Night, and Good Luck, Nick
  8. I've already talked about how free-will in the Objectivist philosophy conflicts with their mechanistic view of the universe with cause and effect running everything. Nathaniel Branden talks about how it is man's nature to be free and that he is a prime mover, not really a negation of causalty but another kind of causation. This doesn't explain things, folks. Objectivism just doesn't get into this issue very far before declaring it self-evident. It's another axiom about which they don't have to discuss further. Another problem Objectivists run into when they reject the mind/body dichotomy and all its varients: empiricism - rationalism, a priori - a posteriori, and analytic -synthetic; is that they can still use these concepts to explain their concepts. Objective truth is a priori, true independent of human knowledge, but it is perceived first through the senses, a posteriori. Yes, there is abstract truth, but that, they say, is abstracted from reality, which is experienced. The problem with that is that certain a priori knowledge, like space and time, must be around before experience is possible. Rand does not include this with her conceptual concepts of existence, identity, and consciousness. There seem to be many hidden axioms which Objectivists simply glide over. And, of course, there are the several chicken and egg type problems. Objectivists say that man must "choose" to be rational, but what guides that intial choice to be rational? Is it an irrational choice? (I've asked this before, a few times already.) Also, concept formation accompanies language development in humans and Objectivists claim some conceptual knowledge is prior to comunication, thus prior to language or one's ability to comunicate with one's self, think. Okay, if conceptual thinking was possible before language, then in what language did one think? Objectivists say there is only one reality, the one perceved by one's consciousness. However, this statement, itself, recognizes two realities, an external reality perceived by something internal, and a consciousness which perceives it. This is a dualism. I have quoted Objectivists on these pages as admitting that Objectivism is dualistic. So, there is a sort of mind/body acceptance after all. Objectivists claimed to reject the mind-body and analytic-synthetic dichotomy, but they fabricated a false dichotomy between faith and reason. Since logic cannot verify itself, it is often grounded in faith. One has to have faith in logic. And, I still maintain that inductve reasoning does require a leap of faith. It may have a high degree of certainty, but it can be wrong. Science changed its mind on Pluto recently. Textbooks are being rewritten. Anyhow, science is pragmatic, not absolute. We may have to live with a little uncertainty. It gives us room to grow, even if it makes Objectivists crazy. bis bald, Nick
  9. I have actually taught in prisons and in public schools. There is a difference. However, good looking and popular kids have no real problems in any setting. They tend to get what they want. Students like I was will always experience injustice. However, I think I am now a little deeper, intellectually and emotionally, than the cheerleaders and jocks and class presidents who were in high school when I was. bis bald, Nick
  10. Again, I think it is better to debate than to fly airplanes into buildings or drop bombs in places where innocent people reside. However, I can understand why some people would rather not debate this issue. As much as I enjoy debating and think it can be productive, I need to respect my opponents somewhat, even if I disagree with them. I have such little respect for people who think killing innocent people is morally justified that I really don't want to debate with them. This is why I sometimes walk away from debates with people who think dropping the bombs on Japan was a good thing. If this is how you feel about people like me, then we must really dislike each other. Nick
  11. BTW, I wish more of our battles would be on messageboards rather than in residential and business areas. bis bald, Nick
  12. I don't really understand. Why would someone profoundly disagree with me that we should be reminded of our culpability in killing innocent people, as collateral damage, in going after those we think are responsible for going after us? And, where have I been debating this umpteen times? Let me put on record that I profoundly disagree that killing innocent people, as when we dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, is ever justified. Nick
  13. To Barbara, Yes, I agree we need to be reminded of recent history. We tend to become complacent and vulnerable. We also need to be reminded of our culpabilty in killing innocent people, as collateral damage, in going after those we think are responsible for going after us. And, we need to be reminded that not all Muslims and people of Arab descent are evil. It is evil to discriminate against them all indiscriminately. bis bald, Nick
  14. To Barbara, Good point! I agree. Anne Frank's story is much different from Rachael's. It appears that Rachael had a fairly safe and pleasant life prior to being shot. I think the family and people trying to promote Rachael are stretching to find parallels. It reminds me of how people once pointed out all the similarties between John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. They didn't mention the differences, like that Kennedy was rich and Lincoln wasn't. To Chris, I don't know if this is the girl to whom you are refering, but she is being exploited, it seems, by religious people. She is being used to challenge kids to be better people. The presentation I saw did not overtly push religion, but it did emphasize the supernatual things, which made the presentation interesting if not easily believable. We aren't allowed to proselytize religious views in public schools, but people tend to hint about "spiritual" things. And, in other forums, like on the internet or in church settings, I'm sure they stress those things. It becomes hard to know what is actually true and what makes a good story. It's not like she said, "I believe in God," and then immediately got shot. She got shot at lunch time while she was sitting in a grassy spot outside of Columbine High School. (Of course, now, there are other kids in the news who have been killed.) bis bald, Nick
  15. The other day, when I was substitute teaching at the North Central High School in Spokane, I attended an assembly. It was a special tribute to Rachael Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting incident in 1999. She was a cute teenage girl and well liked by many people. The presenter, a friend of the family, compared her to Anne Frank, the Jewish girl killed by Nazis in World War II. The two boys who shot her, Eric and Dylan, idolized Hitler, and, like Anne Frank, Rachael Scott is having a post-mortem impact on the world. Rachael’s brother, Darrel, missed being shot by a mere coincidence. Friends of his on both sides were killed, and guns were being leveled on him when the sprinkler system went off from all the gun smoke in the air. This was enough to distract he shooters so that Darrel could get away. The presenter talked about an essay Rachael wrote on ethics, just before she died. She wrote about her theory that when people do good deeds, it starts a chain-reaction of good deeds spreading around the world. Then, he described some of the good deeds Rachael did: Once, when a new girl transferred to the school and sat alone in the lunch room, Rachael went over to her and invited the girl to join Rachael’s friends. The girl declined, out of shyness, but Rachael brought her friends over to the girl’s table and made her feel welcome. Another time, when bullies were picking on a mentally challenged boy in the hall, Rachael jumped in between them and challenged the bullies. She put up her fists and told them they would have to go through her first if they wanted to hit the boy. Certainly these bullies would not be proud about beating up this little girl, so they backed down. The situation was diffused. The presenter went on to suggest supernatural aspects of Rachael’s story. Even though she was happy all the time, she told people she was going to die young. She drew pictures which seemed to foretell the tragedy at Columbine, and she told people she would someday touch the hearts of millions. Through this kind of presentation, television coverage, and books published by her family, she is touching the hearts of millions. The presenter did not focus on some of the problems Eric and Dylan, the shooters, had with students and teachers at Columbine. I think they were picked on, but this would not justify what they did. I think Rachael was cute and sweet, not deserving to die like she did, but probably not perfect. She is being made into a martyr, like Anne Frank, making something bad into something good. bis bald, Nick