Should We Start Pronouncing NYC “Niss”?

Does anybody pronounce “NYC” “niss”?
Might be cool to start doing it.
Connects it with french city Nice.
And Happy-ness.
And my niece who lives in Nyc.

I don’t think we should pronounce it “NIK” though.

Although it connects with “Old Nick” and “nicotine” cause it’s not New York Kitty. It’s New York City, with an “s” sound. Although “New York Kitty” might a be a good name for a pet supply store if it does not yet exist (I bet it does).

Niss, the new pronounciation of NYC also rhymes with Kiss.
Which is such a tender romantic name for such a tough metal band dressed as demons and monsters and what have you.  Sticking their tongues out and spitting blood and wearing frightening shoes.
I’ll tell you something and this is just a secret between me and the readers of this blog.
Maybe some day there will be another kind of “Kiss Army”…
An army of people who like to kiss!

Politics and the Sharing of Fantasies

I have a fantasy where I live in a world where there is no such thing as money or property.  No differences of status separate human being from human being.  Nations have no more power to define people’s identity than voluntary clubs do today.  Religion is a purely private, aesthetic affair, like liking a particular kind of music.  In my fantasy I get up,wash my face, leave the house, walk down the street and meet people.  I get to know a new person every day and we learn about each other and become friends.  It doesn’t matter who anybody else thinks we are and who we should be.

I use the word “fantasy” because I think it stems from my emotional needs.  They are not particular to me alone and are shared by a certain strain in progressive and anarchist politics.

Those who are politically conservative have a fantasy as well, and I do when I am in a conservative mood.  It is expressed by Lao Tzu in the Tao Teh Ching, when he says the people once had empty heads and full stomachs, and heard the chickens crowing in the village down the road but never in their lives visited it.   In my conservative fantasy I am happy, and part of an organic whole, like a leaf on a tree in a healthy forest.

The progressive fantasy places the good place in the future and the conservative fantasy places it in the past.

It is pretty easy to make fun of both political fantasies, because it is always easy to make fun of a fantasy.  When a person is vulnerable enough to say what he or she really needs, it is always an option to mock him or her.

In an intimate relationship we trust our partner with our fantasies.  We don’t force them to comply with them, but we let them know what they are without fear of ridicule.

It would be nice if we could do that in our political lives too.



The Ghoul Says

The Ghoul says, “Keep away from the smelly shadows.”

The Ghoul says, “I know the thing you never told.”

The Ghoul says, “I was here before you knew it.”

The Ghoul says, “I forgot who I used to be.”

But even so, my friends and fellow members of the committee, we did not come to the graveyard at midnight to bandy words with the ghoul.  It is not meet to do thus, nor is it appropriate.  Although the moon is gibbous and the low keening of something low, and huge and close can be heard just below the level of thought, not with the ears perhaps, but with the bones.

-The ear has bones, DeMoulet, three tiny bones, the hammer, the anvil, and the bell.

-Do you think I don’t know that?

-I think you don’t cause you fell in my trap, DeMoulet.  The three tiny bones in the ear are the hammer, the nail,and the stirrup.

-Speak for yourself.

-Don’t tell me who to speak for, Demoulet.  Don’t tell me who to be quiet for and don’t tell me who to speak for.

-Demoulet?  Demoulet?   I was joking about those tiny bones in the ear.  You do what you want.



The Ghoul says, “They come here a lot and play this game.”

The Ghoul says, “Neither a beginner nor an ender be.”

The Ghoul says, “I’m ready when you are.”


Another Wittgenstein-Kierkegaard Connection: Laugh If You Can

It is well known that Wittgenstein admired Kierkegaard, thought he was the greatest thinker of the nineteenth century and a saint, although towards the end of his life he got fed up with how constantly teasing Kierkegaard’s writing is.  (Kierkegaard thought this was positive — his writing was teasing the way existence is teasing).

I discovered a famous quote from Wittgenstein is a straight lift from Kierkegaard.  Wittgenstein is criticizing Sir James Frazer, the author of the Golden Bough.  Frazer, an early sociologist of religion,  is looking at human sacrifice and viewing it as a sort of primitive, misguided science.  He is the intellectual ancestor of today’s “New Atheists”.  Wittgenstein finds Frazer misses the boat and has a problem with the whole method.  Here is Wittgenstein on Frazer from the “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough”

A religious symbol does not rest on any opinion. And error belongs only with opinion.One would like to say: This is what took place here; laugh, if you can.

  • Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough, p. 123

And here is Kierkegaard, from the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, arguing that whatever sort of problems or issues are addressed by religion they are not objective issues, and cannot be dealt with in the dispassionate spirit of inquiry:

Try this thought experiment: Imagine someone putting his guilt together with the conception of an eternal happiness, and who for that very reason becomes alone with himself, with the guilt and with God (where the truth lies, in contrast to all comparative bustle and unconcern in the herring shoal); imagine him desperately pondering the possibility that there might be something he can hit on as an atonement for his guilt, imagine the inventor’s anguish in case it were not possible after all to hit on something that would make it up with God: and then laugh if you can at the sufferer who hits on the penance, assuming, as one always may in a thought-experiment, that his intention and desire is in all honesty that God might be moved and mollified by all this suffering.

(2009-05-28). Kierkegaard: Concluding Unscientific Postscript (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (p. 454). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Both thinkers leave us with a challenge to our sense of humor.

Are we the sort of people who can laugh at human sacrifice or human self-mortification?

Check and see!


“Who am I To Tell You How What Dreams to Have or How to Manifest them Tangibly?”

This is a beautiful question that I read on hevria.com.  It was addressed to the issue of kiruv, or “outreach” — a program in which orthodox Jews reach out to get other Jews to become orthodox.

I think orthodox Judaism is a mistaken approach.  But I think this is a beautiful question.

Who are you to tell other people how to dream and how to make their dreams tangible?

The answer can only be: you.

Although I don’t want other people to tell me what to dream, I deeply want them to share their dreams with me, and influence my dream life, so we have a shared dream life.

And I will kiss the hand of anyone who will show me how to make my dreams tangible.


Can You Pretend to Be Something You Are?

Q: Can you pretend to be something you are?

A: Yes, if you don’t know you are it.

Q:Can you be pretentiously unpretentious?

A:Yes, lots of people do this.

Q: Can you be unpretentious without pretending to be unpretentious?

A: Yes, this happens a lot.

Q: What is the relationship between irony and pretence?

A:Symbiotic.  In a society with no pretence there is no need for irony.

Q: Can you be pretentiously ironic?

A: This is extremely common.

Q: Would it be good to be entirely unpretentious?

A: No, because that would mean you lacked i)aspiration and ii)care for others.

Q:  I don’t think that’s right.

A:It’s not.



Impressive Stone Head: A Tale of Intergalactic Social Work

by their fruits ye shall know them

An inexpensive item that helped Edward in his social work was a megalith, carved in the shape of a head, purchased from De Silvestri’s Novelties and Gifts in Times Square for $18.95.  It had a tiny tape recorder inside capable of recording a short message, such as are sometimes found in greeting cards, and a pressure sensor at the base.

Edward purchased the head on a vacation to New  York City thinking it would be useful in his intergalactic social work someday and kept it in the trunk of his spaceship.

One day he traveled to Deneb 86-C, a moon upon which a race of echinoderms had recently achieved civilization.  He learned that they worshiped the Great Living Sea that Birthed All Things and had endured ten billion generations of savage war.  He had an idea.  He learned enough of their language to record upon the recording device “Yes” in their language.

Deep in a cave on the planet he placed the Impressive Stone Head.  He told the echinoderms that when they felt they had sinned against the Living Sea (which they did through warfare and cannibalism of their offspring) they should take a boulder to the head and leave it and ask if they were forgiven.

The Impressive Stone Head taught the creatures to forgive themselves.

Years later when they got access to his files they complained.  “The voice of the Great Living Sea that Birthed All Things  is a novelty that you purchased in Times Square for $18.95.”

Edward said “Who is to say that the Great Living Sea cannot speak through a novelty that can be purchased for $18.95”

They said “But it always says yes. It is a trick.”

Edward said “Who is to say that the Great Living Sea cannot speak through a trick?”


A Little Something for the Pleasure-Seekers

There are some who devote their lives to the pursuit of physical pleasure.  They have been known to wreck families to obtain this sensation they seek from sex, to break their bodies and brains chasing it with unsafe driving, to injure themselves and the law obtaining it by means of drugs.  For those who count themselves among that buzz-searching tribe I am here to provide a recipe for an intense physical pleasure in the light of which sex, food, and drugs fade like glow-worms in the noonday sun.

  1. Wake up.  Do not drink anything.  Eat a teaspoon of salt.
  2. Wait an hour.  Do not drink anything.
  3. Eat a tablespoon of salt.
  4. Wait another hour.  Do not drink anything.
  5. Wait another hour.  You should now have been awake for three hours without having drunk anything.
  6. Eat a big piece of watermelon.


This is a rapture that violates no law, outrages no obligation, is politically correct, and does not cause a blush to recount.  No, do it as many times as you like, publish it on the front page of your town newspaper and hold your head up high, you Seeker of Pleasure and now Finder too!



Tips for Writing (an Essay)

  1. Start with a clearly-defined problem of the form “It looks like so-and-so is the case but it also looks like so-and-so is NOT the case.”  So for example “It looks like democracy is good because it lets people have a voice in their own fates, but it also looks like democracy is not good because democracies often vote to do bad things, including electing dictators who end the democracy.”  The writing will be better if this problem is clearly defined and real — that is if you yourself and the people reading it see a good reason for adopting both sides of the position.
  2. Resolve the problem by making a proposal that would cost something to adopt.  That is make sure that what you say could be wrong, that assuming it to be true causes us to run some sort of clear risk.  So for example, to follow our example of democracy you might propose that democracies are only good if they never infringe on the rights of minorities, and you go on to say in a clear way that a sane person could disagree with what counts as a minority and what counts as infringing on the rights of minorities.  Not all risks are political, obviously.  So if you are arguing the case that people should pay attention to poetry, and considering the counter-argument that it is a waste of time, you might conclude people should pay attention to poetry even if it is a waste of time.  So you would be advocating running a risk of wasting time.
  3. Give your reader a chance to look at all the points AGAINST what you are saying.  So in the case above be honest that you are limiting democracy, and also be honest that many societies that protect the rights of minorities have ended badly, and be honest about what the limits are on what sort of rights of minorities you would protect — e.g. would you protect the rights of Christian Scientists to deny medical care to their children?
  4. Do the best you can only to use words everybody knows and only to appeal to facts that everybody could easily check.

The Science Fictional Sublime

Science fiction gave us a new way of gesturing at what it would be like to transcend humanity; you can call it a new set of tricks for simulating awe.  “Tricks” because nobody has yet transcended humanity; if anything humanity is difficult to imagine minus our wish to transcend our limitations — so you could say with equal justice

a)nobody has every described what it would be like to transcend humanity because if they had done it, their readers would have done it, and they haven’t, so they didn’t


b)every human being in history has constantly been in the business of transcending humanity; that’s what being a human being is.

But the feeling of our limited conceptual and emotional and aesthetic resources being overwhelmed is a real feeling — the sublime, Kant called it — and we say as well that it is awe.

How does science fiction talk about awe or the super-human?  By describing human beings in naturalistic terms and then inviting us to extrapolate.  Either extrapolating a superhuman individual, like the high IQ supermen of Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon or Stapledon’s Odd John or Sturgeon’s “Maturity”, or extrapolating a future evolution of the entire human race —  Stapledon’s “Last and First Men” — or extrapolating super-human aliens, or in a combination the future evolution of humanity uplifted by aliens.

In all these cases it is the gesture towards the unknown that thrills.  Microcosmic God ends with the author in the dark about the future evolution of the super-evolved neoterics.  Mimsy Were the Borogoves ends with the children, uplifted by toys from the future, inconceivable.   It is always the same — a naturalistic lead up and then silence or amazement.  Because, what else could it be?

Two exceptions that test the rule are the invocation of a group mind and the use of religious language.  The future evolved humans may be free of individuality — Sturgeon’s “The Widget, the Wadget and Boff” or the group beings of “Childhood’s End” or they may actually become gods, or God.  Neither is exactly satisfactory.  The hive mind or group consciousness is just human consciousness splayed out among a multiplicity of bodies, and God, notoriously is a being who is either a human writ large or Inconceivability It- or Him-Self.