The coolest quiz on the

The coolest quiz on the web for determining your political orientation is Politopia is an island where your political opinions determine where you live, and it's not bound down by the tired one dimensional left/right model (represented in Politopia by the Old Main Stream). Look at the funny cartoons, take the quiz, tell a friend! Put in and find out where I live. And complain to the webmaster that Jesse Ventura is not a libertarian. (Full disclosure: Politopia is a production of The Institute for Humane Studies, my employer.)

Another reason for dropping an

Another reason for dropping an MTV bomb on the middle east: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson! Just saw the Full House twins on MTV's Fake ID Club, and oh my… our babies are all growed up! The fifteen year-old nascent ultra-babes stand atop a media empire worth close to $1 billion! Have you seen the Mary-Kate and Ashley magazine? The Saturday Morning cartoon? The clothing line (brought to you by the world largest retailer)? The made-for-video movie series? The Gameboy games? You haven't? Well, the rising cohort of young women — sure to be the wealthiest, most powerful generation of women ever — certainly have. While not artists of the highest order, the Olson's have a bred-in-the-bone sensibility for media, marketing, and the overwhelming power of beauty and fashion (Virginia Postrel, take note!) And they know branding — they've been a brand since their earliest inkling of memory. The Taliban would not approve. And neither, I suspect, would our beloved old-school feminists. But this is what girlpower is about: using femininity to evoke aesthetic and sexual admiration, and exploting it to rule the market. Or: courting objectification for fun and profit. It's Mary-Kate and Ashley's world. We menfolk just live in it.

Apparently MTV is set to

Apparently MTV is set to do it's part in the middle east propaganda war. The idea is to spam the 15-30 y/o middle east demo with Rock the Vote-like public service efforts to cast westerners in a favorable light. They've clearly got the wrong idea. MTV is a schizoid basketcase message-wise. Their “very special” socially conscious programming is the worst sort of misinformed, pusillanimous liberalism posing as broad-minded humanism, while the videos (once their raison d'etre) are full of the grossest sort of flesh-peddling bling bling — which is excellent! Clearly middle eastern Muslims need spiritual liberation, and a gyrating Britney Spears slathered in oil singing “I'm a Slave for You” is rather more liberating than MTV's stylized NPR-lite quasi-politics (although Serena Altschul is… desirable). The Afghans & Arabs don't need after-school specials with Serena's sedated earnesty. They need T&A, thuglife and Slipknot! They need their MTV2! If they don't know who we be, give 'em DMX!

Like much of the English-speaking

Like much of the English-speaking world, I went to see Harry Potter this weekend. Although I resisted Harry-mania for well over two years, I ended up getting hooked this spring when my girlfriend at the time read the first book to me in the car during a trip down to Charleston & Savannah and back. I then shredded through the rest of the series. (And I'm not embarrassed to admit it!) Anyway, the movie was a rather rote interpretation, and was so compressed that much of the considerable feeling (for neglect, friendship, ambition, etc.) in the book was almost entirely squeezed out. I'd have loved to have seen what Terry Gilliam, say, would have done with it.

How about some philosophical commentary? In the climactic scene, where Harry confronts “he-who-must-not-be-named,” the Evil One announces, Nietzsche fashion: “There is no good and evil. There is only power and those too fearful to grab it.” (Or something to that effect.) This is a popular theme in fantasy movies. Think Star Wars. The idea is that the acme of evil is the refusal to recognize that there really is such a thing as evil. Evil people think big ticket moral categories are just a way of keeping us down, from becoming all that we can really be. Enlightenment is abandoning our spiritually enslaving scruples and just going for it. But, Harry argues, that's just what evil is!

Now, what Harry and Luke have to show us is that there is compensation for abiding by the big ticket moral categories, and this is where these stories become very strained. Harry just happens to be extremely powerful. He didn't do anything to earn it, he's just got it. So, it's not so bad being good if you're Harry, because you've got all this power you never asked for, and every time you use it, you're a big hero. Yet most of us aren't aren't set up so well to attain mass adoration.

But I'm being cynical. There is a hint in Harry that adherence to the marquee moral categories makes it possible to attain things that really do matter. Harry himself was saved from evil because his very skin was infused with his mother's overwhelming love. Perhaps acceding to our intuitions about good and evil is what makes it possible to love and be loved, and if that's the case, then that's probably compensation enough. Yet, I bet when kids fantasize about being Harry, they fantasize about his power and not his capacity for love.

I hereby innaugarate my new

I hereby innaugarate my new weblog, The Fly Bottle. The title comes from Wittgenstein's statement that the aim of his philosophy was to show the fly the way from the fly bottle. What can this possibly mean? Well, Wittgenstein was weird. We're flies. When we philosophize we buzz around bumping into an unseen enclosing barrier, the glass, erected by the philosopher in the attempt to use perfectly good words for perverse intellectual purposes. Once we cease abusing words by ripping them from their native habitats and acquiesce to language as it is unselfconsciously used in “the wild,” we'll find that our philosophical “problems” were nothing but artifacts of our linguistic abuse. We'll be free! Now, I don't agree with this. Philosophical problems aren't generally figments of a bad way with words. But Wittgenstein is right that a lot of confusion will vanish if you carefully attend to the contours of common thought and language. What I want to do in this weblog, is to bring this kind of attentiveness to bear on intellectual questions of the day, and perhaps to help see the way out of the intellectual traps built for us by misguided contemporary intellectuals (you know, those bad leftist postmodernists). I'm quite sure that I shan't be half so prodigious as Instapundit, my blogging hero. However, I do hope to post something every day or so, and I hope that my eclectic range of interests will be more interesting than offputting.

Very nice obituary at the

Very niceĀ obituary at the Guardian of David Lewis, the Princeton metaphysician famous (for a philosopher) for his stalwart defense of the existence of real, live alternative dimensions. On Lewis's theory, any state of affairs that is possible is actual on some world or other that differs from this one only in not being this one. So there is a possible world with David Lewis still on it (his Lewisian “counterpart” at any rate) and that world is richer philosophically than ours.

To learn a little about David Lewis's philosophy, try David King's discussion of a few Lewis quotes about possible worlds. What exactly is a possible world? Try the entry at xrefer.