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2005-03-18 15:31

Judicial torture as foreplay

It is Casanova at the execution of Damien!

(Like Mr C., I will refrain from giving details: the execution was slow, and vair vair nasty, and the social event of the season.)

As these remarks could only give pain to the young lady, who listened in silence, I changed the conversation to the enormous crowd which would be present at the execution of Damien, and finding them extremely desirous of witnessing this horrible sight I offered them a large window with an excellent view. The ladies accepted with great pleasure, and I promised to escort them in good time.

I had no such thing as a window, but I knew that in Paris, as everywhere, money will procure anything. After dinner I went out on the plea of business, and, taking the first coach I came across, in a quarter of an hour I succeeded in renting a first floor window in excellent position for three louis. I paid in advance, taking care to have a receipt.


On March the 28th, the day of Damien's martyrdom, I went to fetch the ladies in good time; and as the carriage would scarcely hold us all, no objection was made to my taking my sweetheart on my knee, and in this order we reached the Place de Greve. The three ladies packing themselves together as tightly as possible took up their positions at the window, leaning forward on their elbows, so as to prevent us seeing from behind. The window had two steps to it, and they stood on the second; and in order to see we had to stand on the same step, for if we had stood on the first we should not have been able to see over their heads. I have my reasons for giving these minutiae, as otherwise the reader would have some difficulty in guessing at the details which I am obliged to pass over in silence.

We had the courage to watch the dreadful sight for four hours. The circumstances of Damien's execution are too well known to render it necessary for me to speak of them; indeed, the account would be too long a one, and in my opinion such horrors are an offence to our common humanity.

Damien was a fanatic, who, with the idea of doing a good work and obtaining a heavenly reward, had tried to assassinate Louis XV.; and though the attempt was a failure, and he only gave the king a slight wound, he was torn to pieces as if his crime had been consummated.

While this victim of the Jesuits was being executed, I was several times obliged to turn away my face and to stop my ears as I heard his piercing shrieks, half of his body having been torn from him, but the Lambertini and the fat aunt did not budge an inch. Was it because their hearts were hardened? They told me, and I pretended to believe them, that their horror at the wretch's wickedness prevented Them feeling that compassion which his unheard-of torments should have excited.

Eugene "The Pious Aunt" Volokh would be proud. Watch him licking his (undoubtedly very pious) lips over the recent execution in Iran:

Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing - and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act - was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging.


I should mention that such a punishment would probably violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. I'm not an expert on the history of the clause, but my point is that the punishment is proper because it's cruel (i.e., because it involves the deliberate infliction of pain as part of the punishment), so it may well be unconstitutional. I would therefore endorse amending the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause to expressly exclude punishment for some sorts of mass murders.

We feel we wish to chant: FDR! USA! Once! Great! Nation!

We have a new slogan, incidentally: "Human rights are twentieth-century rights!"


2005-03-18 12:32

Bokhandel by name

I made an order with Akademibokhandel online (some yummy Althusser, hoorah!), and got a confirmatory email.

Then I waited, because this is after all Sweden we're talking about, and then I waited some more, for much the same reason.

Then I received a "proforma" invoice.

I realise now what must have happened: my old bank card expired, and I've got a new one. But Akademibokhandel's e-shopping interface didn't mention this, or offer an opportunity to correct it.

Since I've now figured out that the Frenchy-French version of the Althusser I want isn't out of print, but collected into an even better value volume of crits, I am tempted to just ignore A:handel.

But would I be risking even worse service (which is at least mathematically possible) from them in the future?


2005-03-18 09:40

A loathning

My loathning, it is torn between the wretchedness of XHTML and the smugness of its advocates.

I have used "semantic" markup for many years, Varied Reader, and I am here to tell you it simply doesn't work.

Developing a useful, general framework for expressing the relations among different types of entities (what philosophers call ``ontology'') seems intractably difficult. The main difference between the confusion that existed ten years ago and the confusion that exists now is that now a variety of inadequate ontological theories have been embodied in a plethora of correspondingly inadequate programming languages.

[It is SICP!]

These ambiguities, redundancies and deficiencies remind us of those which doctor Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge'. In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.

[It is Borges!]

Now please give me back my <i> tag: I have some italics belonging to the emperor to encode.


2005-03-17 16:24

Unintentionally Incognito

It is the lovely kronprinsess Vickan of Sweden in Straya, waving and smiling for all she's worth to general bewilderment:

Kronprinsessan Victoria vinkar och ler i Australien.
Men hr vet ingen vem hon r.

Kronprinsess Victoria waves and smiles in Australia.
But none here knows who she is.

Is it easy being a prinsess? It is, we submit, not!


2005-03-17 13:13

Monday Review of Stuff

It is the Le guide du routard: Barcelone!

This was our first field-test of a Routard guide, and we liked it a lot. The Routards contain no fotos and are printed on rubbish paper, so they are small and pocketable. Since we are generally appointed navigator for any trip involving us (regardless of other parties present) the size is a big win.

They are also very defaceable: they wear their date of printing on their front cover, to encourage thinking of them as disposible, which is the right way to think of travel guides. We splatted ours liberally with highlighter.

To help keep them small they are also selective: an establishment mentioned in the Routard is entitled to a (dated) plaquette to that effect and they often show them proudly by the entrance.

And if you go round the Routard trail there's a fair chance you'll be hanging out where the Frenchy-French touristes hang out, which after all makes a change.

Our hotel was 30 EUR a night for a (small but clean) single room with off-suite facilities (just a basin in the room), and our food was generally excellent whether expensive or cheap. (And they went out of their way to suggest suckling piglet, yum yum.)

We'd go with a Routard again, for sure, although when our German is better we'll surely reopen enquiries.


2005-03-17 10:23

She's a big prinsess now!

It is kronprinsess Vickan of Sweden, and she can dress herself and everything!

-Nu vljer jag mina klder sjlv. Det viktigaste r att de r snygga och att jag knner att de passar fr mig. Sen mste ju plaggen vara anpassade fr rtt tillflle, sger hon.

"Now I choose my clothes myself. The most important thing is that they are good looking and fit me. Then must the clothnings be fitted to the right occasion", she said.

And what clothes would you wear for an upsidedown samwidgetable? It seems to us that stuff is very likely to fall off: we'd wear a nice sou'wester, if we were a prinsess. And a tiara, natch.

There won't be any $3000-a-head dinners at swish harbourside mansions for Princess Victoria. Instead she gets to preside over a smorgasbord luncheon.

It is like a home from home!


2005-03-16 17:07

Unconstitutional koala canoodling

It is Kronprinsess Vickan and a koala!

Sorry Daniel, Victoria har en ny krlek.
I Australiens vildmark fll hon fr den hriga koalan Ash som verstes med pussar.
- Hr r min nye pojkvn, utbrast hon glatt.

Sorry Daniel, Victoria has a new love.
In Australia's wilderness she fell for the hairy koala Ash which she somethinged with kisses.
"Here is my new boyfriend", she utbrast happily.

Prins Charles, of this parish, only wanted to marry a divorcee and he got a tonne of grief: Sweden is, as usual, more progressive.


2005-03-16 12:01

A whingening

An exercise in this week's OU chapter asks and also enquires:

Do you think a TV a "luxury" or "a necessity" in the contemporary UK?

We don't got no teevee, of course, but we were nonetheless disposed to line dutifully up with the mandated answer, but then they remark:

You may have answered, no, a TV cannot be a "necessity" because one can stay alive without a TV. But what about living a human life, with enough sociability to make life worthwile?

Thanks an arsebunch, OU! Few things cheer me up more than being told I'm an subhuman loser whose life isn't worth living, that's for very sure...


2005-03-16 09:23

On being indifferent to even Picasso's ceramics

A pot is a pot,
It int'rests me not,
And here is a thing which should not be forgot:
That which you've got
When what you've got is a pot
Is just a container or vessel.


2005-03-15 15:56


It is Noam "Chomp-Chomp" Chomsky and Jacques "La-La-Land" Lacan:

Later Lacan scandalised everyone during a lecture at the Massachusetts Instititute of Technology by the way he answered a question about thought put to him by Noam Chomsky. "We think we think with our brains," said Lacan. "But personally I think with my feet. That's the only way I really come into contact with anything solid. I do occasionally think with my forehead, when I bang into something. But I've seen enough electroencephalograms to know there's not the slightest trace of a thought in the brain." When he heard this Chomsky concluded that the lecturer must be a madman.

Lacan gets a hard time from persons who think that things should make more sense than none at all, but that doesn't especially include us: Lacan was a surraliste, and we, for one, like that stuff.


2005-03-15 12:04

Meatisme considered clichd

It is Steven "Cyborg" Rose being reviewed!

The brain is commonly treated as some kind of computer or information processing system - a bit of machinery that can be tinkered with once we have the blueprint of its circuits. However, Rose argues that the brain is something organic, holistic, a living system. So it needs to be explained in terms of theories that deal explicitly in meaning and mindfulness, such as, for example, the "autopoietic" or self-making approach advanced by the Chilean pair of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. An autopoietic system is one organised to respond to the world. Prod it and it will react homeostatically, striving to reach a new accommodation that preserves its integrity. There is a global cohesion - a memory of what the system wants to be - that reaches down to organise the parts even while those parts may be adding up to produce the functioning whole.

We call that "teleonomy", of course, and we are in both the habit and custom of resenting the habitual use of computer systems as the standard metaphor for inflexible predictability. There is of course no good reason to think an "autopoietic" system has to have a meatware substrate, regardles of "Barking" John Searle.

We (i.e., personkind) don't know much about implementing "intelligent" teleonomic systems on 'puters, but then we (i.e., still personkind) don't know all that much about spicy brains, either.


2005-03-15 09:22

Against anti-relativisme

It is no secret that I support Челси Foopball Club. Челси are not the only foopball team around, of course: there are other foopball clubs in Engerlund, to say nothing of Yoorp in general. In fact, if there were only one (1) foopball team, there'd be no one for them to play, and little point supporting them.

Some of these other foopball clubs also have supporters, although none of them are me. As a foopball fan, I am a relativiste: I mostly concede in my brief lucid interval that there is no principled reason why allbody should support Челси.

But I still support Челси: a part of my emotional life is bound up in their many successes and occasional failures.

Exactly this logic scales up unchanged to the wider problems that the foundationalistes are in the habit of accusing relativistes as being likely to have. A lack of a valid chain of reasoning from explicitly stated principles does not, in fact, in any way, shape or form imply a lack of commitment to a position: foundationalisme is a scare-mongering irrelevance.


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