Thought of the day

Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who likes to give away free healthcare.

You’re thinking of Jesus.

Nevermind – 20 years later

As of today, Sept 24, it has been 20 years since Nirvana’s Nevermind was released. (I have this post set to be published at 3am EST – midnight in Seattle.) I was only 6 at the time the album came out, a month shy of 9 when Kurt Cobain killed himself (April ’94), so I missed out on the moment. Sort of. I may have been too young to realize the importance of the band, not to mention too young to yet have a distinct interest in music, but with all the interviews, writings, and, ultimately, songs, it would be impossible for anyone to not feel like they were right there when it was all happening.

My introduction to the band came via my brother. He was a fan from either just before Cobain’s death or just after. Either way, he would listen to his Nirvana albums constantly. I didn’t take to them right away, probably in part because of a traditional sibling rivalry (it must be bad if my brother likes it, right?), but then I saw a special on MTV. First they covered a little bit about the band, about Cobain, about his burn out. I was intrigued. Then they aired Nirvana: Unplugged in New York. I was absolutely blown away. I immediately “borrowed” my brother’s album of the show and listened to it again and again and again.

I didn’t know that a bunch of the songs were covers (like the one above by Meat Puppets), but that didn’t much matter. The performance is what counted to me. And it was an incredible one. From David Bowie covers to Lead Belly tunes to Nirvana originals, I couldn’t get enough. I searched listings and watched The Preview Channel constantly in hopes of seeing more Nirvana specials and repeats of performances. (This was before DVRs and, as far as my house went, Internet access.)

(If there is one video you watch from this post, make it the above. Pay close attention to the moment – and it is a moment – at 4:39.)

It wasn’t long before I started moving into the other Nirvana albums – especially Nevermind. Literally every song on that record is a gem – any one of those “Top 100” or whatheveyou lists of the best albums of the 90’s which does not place this at number 1 is invalid. Come As You Are, Lithium, Polly? The assemblage of songs Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl put together back in 1991 can’t be beat. Yeah, I love a lot of other albums – Revolver has one of the greatest string of three songs I’ve ever heard in Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, and I’m Only Sleeping (plus a lot of other great hits) – but the dozen songs on Nevermind will never be topped as far as I’m concerned. (I’ve never had the honor of hearing an original album featuring the hidden 13th song Endless Nameless.)

This was one of those life-changing bands. Cobain’s more liberal views, his detestation of macho bullshit, his love of art, it all influenced me. I grew a distinct feeling of empathy over the idea of rape, something from which I am otherwise relatively insulated. I came to realize there’s nothing wrong with being gay. I picked up the guitar when I entered high school. The course of my life has been shaped in large part by the fact that I started listening to Nirvana back in 1998. That satisfies me immensely.


via Mike

Thought of the day

My love/hate relationship with Facebook has been very much trending towards the “hate” side lately. I would be fine with having a Facebook within my Facebook so I can Facebook while I Facebook, but don’t take away my friggin’ option to toggle between top stories and recent stories. I don’t need Facebook arbitrarily telling me what is relevant in my feed.

Yo dawg

Thought of the day

What the Republicans should do now that their bill got voted out in the House is double-down. Stick to their guns, utterly failing to even think about compromise. What we need is another last-minute prevention of a government shutdown so that we can get another credit downgrade.

When I know I’ve beat you

By far and away the most common emotionally-based rhetorical tactic I see employed is reflection. It’s a perfectly valid rhetorical tool when used the right way, but most people tend to use it in more of a “Nuh-uh! I am rubber and you are glue!” sort of way. Let me explain.

Think back to when John Kerry said he voted for a bill before he voted against it. It was a political flub that rhetorically made him look awful. Even if he could have logically justified his voting record through simple distinctions or nuanced discussion, it didn’t matter. (Please don’t discuss the specifics of his votes.) The Bush campaign and other Republicans picked up on the phrasing, mocking it endlessly. It was effective. That is the best way to use reflection.

Now take the comment section of this post from back in my May. The person I was ‘debating’ constantly used my language, either using my phrases or emphasized words. I believe I referred to what he was doing as projection, but reflection is the more accurate term. (See my breakdown of his reflection here.) And he was doing it wrong. He wasn’t trying to mock me, but rather he just wanted to use my vocabulary and rhetoric. What that says to me – and what it always says to me whenever someone does it – is that I’ve gotten my points across in a way that grinds at his argument. As I discussed with a psychology grad student friend of mine, this is almost certainly due to some sort of bitterness. It’s sort of like when something embarrassing happens to a kid in grade school who in turn tries and do something more embarrassing to someone else. Or, equally, when a kid drops his ice cream on the ground, so he goes and knocks his brothers’ ice cream down too. Something negative happened to a person and that person wants to reflect that negative thing onto someone else in order to make himself feel better.

Now let’s turn to a more current example. In the comment section of PZ’s post about the Elevatorgate USA Today article, I jumped in and made the same point I made in my recent post: PZ is lying when he says it isn’t his side that caused this nothing-story to be a big fuss. Now before I get to the reflection that quickly took hold in the responses, I want to note something PZ said in his original post:

I had no idea we had such power [to blacklist people], and I don’t recall ever posting a list of people we should not invite to meetings…whereas the other side has been positively shrill in demanding the immediate excommunication of “radical feminists”.

Emphasis mine.

PZ knows this is a gendered word and he knows if a man used it to describe any woman, whether it was accurate or not, a shit storm would pursue. He has intentionally used the rhetoric of the other side because it makes him feel better.

But now to the comment section. Remember, I called PZ a liar here (the only time I am likely to do so). Now let’s take a look at some of the comments:

If your contention is true, you can surely cite and/or quote repeated instances of this.

(Go to it, or let it stand that you’re a bold-faced liar)

Michael Hawkins, you’re worse than wrong, you’re a liar who is wrong.

Look what a lying fuckwitted liar just said.

(The first two quotes are from John Morales. The third is from Nerd of Redhead.)

The entire point of calling me a liar is because I have upset these two users by first calling PZ a liar. That is a negative thing which has happened to someone they like, so they have sought to have that same negative thing happen to the person who initially caused it. But that childishness isn’t the best part. No, even better than that is the fact that John Morales is calling me a liar on the basis that I’m just making up PZ’s claim that the Watsonites have been the calm ones. Not only is that the wrong argument to take since it shouldn’t even be in the least bit of dispute (he should be arguing that PZ’s side has been the calm ones, or at least that PZ really believes what he has said), but the guy even went so far as to dig up an old post giving explicit credence to my claim. So apparently I’m a liar, even though John Morales has found direct evidence to support what I said. I would mockingly call him a liar (thus using this piece of rhetoric correctly), but I just think he’s stupid.

Watch for rhetoric like this, though. I used to see it a lot from a few conservatives on my friends list, and that’s when I knew I had basically won the argument. (Whether or not I was right is a different issue.) Of course, it isn’t particular to any ideology – my focus in this very post comes from a liberal blog – but it is almost always telling. If the person isn’t using this rhetoric correctly, he is using it because he wants to make himself feel better for having his argument/position verbally tossed around.