Archive for August, 2011

I’ve been on for about two months now and have been awarded 22 best answers out of some 175 questions to which I have replied. Inexplicably, 5 have since gone missing. To generate some inbound links and demonstrate the sorts of questions I address, they are listed below (unnumbered, most recent first) with the link to each answer at the end. I’ve added a few missing words or letters to correct for poor English or questions that were cut off because of the two-part display structure.

  • Have you ever rented a houseboat, and did you like it? link
  • Are you nicer in your [real life or online?] link
  • The Associated Press contacted several Book Publishers who said Casey Anthony is too tainted for a book deal. [What do you think?] link
  • What is the difference, if any, between information, knowledge and wisdom? link
  • Where do we go after we die? link
  • Can a member please explain what the social security trust fund is and explain if it really exists or is it a con perpetrated by FDR to fool the sheople? link
  • What is the best browser to use on a Mac? link
  •  Is [the] mac op[e]rating system is better [than] the xp sp3 in use? link
  • The Beginning of Time[: how can time begin?] link
  • New unemployment figures for the month of June shows it remains at 9.2%. Only 18,000 jobs were added in June. [Your thoughts?] link
  • Why do some people never feel full even though they have eaten to the point of gluttony? link
  • What are mirror neurons[?] link
  •  Why [are people so] rude? link
  • What is your favorite work of Arvo Pärt, the Estonian composer? link
  • How do I get a patent? link
  • Why can parrots talk? We’re talking physiological here. Please explain. link
  • It has been argued that some college students fail to achieve what Piaget called “formal operations.” Given what you know about Piaget’s Stages of Development, is it possible for a college student to have not achieved formal operations? Why or why [not?] link

My answer rate falls well below the 10-20 per day recommended by regulars at the site, so my status is low and my library of questions and answers is still limited. As you can see, the subjects range all over the map. I have some minor frustration that many of my other answers are also pretty good but the award went to someone else (or no one). Poke around and have a look.

Double Tacky

Posted: August 12, 2011 in Advertising, Consumerism, Culture, Tacky, Taste

I’ve blogged before about a couple outrageously tacky limos (see here and here). The stakes … they just keep rising. Behold the double-decker stretch Hummer limo:



Maybe it’s just a New York and New Jersey thing (I doubt Los Angeles or Las Vegas can be far behind), but there seems to be a race to convert stupid, idiotic vehicles into fleets of rolling parties. A destination is irrelevant; getting there in tacky style is what matters. The blurb at Designer Limos says it all: “Life’s short, Travel well.” Diamond Limousine and M Gucci Limo Service offer the same sort of thing.

Violence is a fact of life. It’s woven into our nature and therefore inescapable. But there are strange distinctions and ironies in the ways violence manifests. For example, many have observed that governments establish for themselves monopolies on the use of violence (Max Weber coined the phrase) in the forms of police and military. Gun controls and regulations, while controversial for many reasons, ultimately seek to remove from the public its ability to use violence not only in its criminal versions but in periodic attempts at revolution or breaking of government monopolies. A distinction coming into focus, however, may not be who gets to use violence but what sort of violence is allowed and what is punished.

Behavioral violence of almost any sort falls under ruthless persecution. Step out of line even a little and you’ll be stomped. For instance, citizens are being prosecuted for filming of the police in public, which is supposedly illegal under a bizarro interpretation of wiretap law. In another example, Tim DeChristopher is being jailed and fined for disrupting federal oil and gas auctions of leases on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. DeChristopher’s actions were to bid at those auctions in Salt Lake City without the supporting funds, which he characterized as an act of civil disobedience. And in rich irony, the U.S. condemns crackdowns on protest abroad while punishing domestic dissent and protest. Holding governments accountable, even at the mundane level of local law enforcement doing traffic stops, is unacceptable unless it’s a government our government seeks to destabilize.

Yet structural violence of all manner is protected, especially those manifestations that flow from institutions, either those in the abstract or those with specific embodiments. Abstractions that align with generalized economic interests and national security justify all manner of violence, typically against the natural world (in the case of the economy) and sovereign states (in the case of national security). For direct embodiments (Exxon Mobil Corporation, Goldman Sachs, etc.), nothing stands in the way of identification, extraction, and protection of privatized material and financial resources — not environmentalism, not regulation, not even the lives and livelihoods of people. They’re all shunted aside in favor of institutional imperatives, namely, profit.

From a certain perspective, the conceptual institutions we serve are just ruses for the brick-and-mortar institutions, which themselves are abstractions at some remove from the lives of actual people, and further, that the world’s resources exploited ruthlessly in the service of these abstractions are directed unjustly away from their logical and rightful recipients: the people. (This sidesteps, too, the issue of sharing and preservation of resources for nonhuman life, such as with nature preserves.) Perhaps behavioral violence is a form of resistance against structural violence: class warfare of the people against the plutocracy. No doubt, someone has written books about this, probably many someones.

There is a new entry in in the world’s tallest building sweepstakes: a tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia financed (in part) by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal through his company Kingdom Holding. Announced in 2008, a contract has been inked and construction commencing soon is slated to take about 63 months, making completion sometime around December 2016.


The Kingdom Tower (a rather obvious name) will be around 1000 meters tall, exceeding the Burj Khalifa’s 828 meters (the current record holder by a large margin). According to this site (which appears not to be kept quite up to date), it was originally called the Mile-High Tower and was intended to be 5280 feet tall (1600 meters) but was scaled back due to questionable foundation support.

The Kingdom Tower has not yet made its way onto the SkyscraperPage. Last time I viewed that site, I remember it including projected towers, but go here instead for a good list. However, clicking around at the SkyscraperPage today, I noticed a 28-pp. index of destroyed buildings and structures of note stretching back 5000 years. Two especially curious recent entries are the Torre de la Escollera in Cartagena, Colombia, and the Desert Inn Palms Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Torre de la Escollera was demolished in 2007 two years into construction because of wind damage to its columns. The Palms Tower (not really a supertall building or even a tower) was completed but stood only seven years before being demolished in 2004.

If Dubai has the reputation for the most batshit crazy construction projects, Las Vegas is probably infamous for demolishing perfectly usable buildings to make room for ever grander, more idiotic outlandish opulent designs. It was inevitable, I suppose, that some new testosterone-fueled fool who failed to get the memo about impending global financial collapse would raise the rooftop to absurd new heights.