Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mazel Snap!

me: Fiddler's depressing. Jews are depressing. But, hell, so are Christians.

Hanah: Jews aren't inherently depressing. It's only that Christians and Muslims do depressing things to them.

me: Damn, that comeback doesn't have a single chink I can hammer at.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dear Diary

Thank God nobody will find out I went to see Enchanted. And loved it!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Works Cited

Another thing about PREACHER, and I'm damn sure not giving anyone who has read it a news flash: It's scary as a psychopathic greased gerbil with a miner's hat and a flashlight and your bare asshole in sight...

This stuff is unique. It's intriguing. It touches on a base level. Makes things crawl around in the viscera (Where is that gerbil with the flashlight anyway?) and the brain.

Joe. R. Lansdale, Foreword to Preacher

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Russell's History, Quick Impressions

He can't resist political prognostication and commentary--even when it's not relevant to the topic at hand. Maybe we could excuse this--he is, after all, writing in 1943--but I get the feeling this inspired Dawkins to take up a similar habit, in which it comes off as immature and stupid. Russell is smarter than Dawkins, so at least he's not as inane: still, we can wish he had provided a better example for his successors.

Much early philosophy is silly. On the other hand, Russell thinks the whole Platonic problem of universals is an artifact of sloppy language, and I doubt it. Nonetheless, there's a lot of crap in Greek thought.

St. Augustine was awesome. Did you know he had the cogito before Descartes?

Spinoza and Kant I've already discussed.

Russell has interesting criticisms of Hume (and Kant). Hume believed causality was nothing more than a relationship we suppose between two things that often happen in association with one another. But Russell points out that this won't do: Hume essentially says, when A and B happen close to each other in time, we believe A causes B. But why do we believe this? Because the close association causes us to believe A causes B! But we can't presume causation in an argument attempting to prove causation doesn't, as commonly conceived, exist!

I'd never heard of Bergson. Sounds a little nuts.

Nietzche writes very well.

Russell goes far too easy on the pragmatists, probably because Dewey was still alive at the time of writing. I don't think there's a sillier idea of truth out there than the pragmatic variant.

A lot of folks get little time, but appear to deserve it: Schopenhauer, Marx, Aquinas. But if Schopenhauer's so vacuous, why was Borges such a fan?

Russell's criticism of Hegel is funny. Hegel thought everything was timeless: like Kant, he thought there is no time. But, simultaneously, Hegel the historian thought nations clash and rise and conquer in a continually progressive manner. But how can there be progression without time?

Russell: "Nor is there any reason, if reality is timeless, why the later parts of the process should embody higher categories than the earlier parts--unless one were to adopt the blasphemous supposition that the Universe was gradually learning Hegel's philosophy."

Unfair perhaps, but still worth a yuk.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Kant Think of a Pun for the Title

I grant Kant's metaphysics are problematic (but really, whose metaphysics aren't?): nonetheless, I still don't understand why Russell finds him overrated. Kant's wrong at times, surely, but he's wrong in an interesting and sophisticated way, whereas Spinoza--Russell's favorite--seems to spout nothing but New Age maxims, at least from Russell's presentation.

Also, amazingly, my friend Matt sent me this link uninvited just hours after I finished the Kant chapter and moved on to Hegel.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Critical Legal Studies Jokes Aren't Funny--What is "Funny," Anyway?

SCOTT: That sign says not to use the revolving doors. But other signs tell us to use the revolving doors.

JAY: Confusing.

SCOTT: Thus the policy of the Law Center is governed by two contradictory principles: 1. Use revolving doors, and 2. Don't use revolving doors. Ergo, all law center policy is indeterminate.

Works Cited

The manner in which Arcesilaus taught would have had much to commend it, if the young men who learnt from him had been able to avoid being paralysed by it. He maintained no thesis, but would refute any thesis set up by a pupil. Sometimes he would himself advance two contradictory propositions on successive occasions, showing how to argue convincingly in favour of either.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Works Cited

Pyrrho's disciple Timon, however, advanced some intellectual arguments which, from the standpoint of Greek logic, were very hard to answer. The only logic admitted by the Greeks was deductive, and all deduction had to start, like Euclid, from general principles regarded as self-evident. Timon denied the possibility of finding such principles. Everything, therefore, will have to be proved by means of something else, and all argument will be either circular or an endless chain hanging from nothing. In either case nothing can be proved.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

"Because my son or my wife is dead," says Teles, who was one of these popularizing Cynics, "is that any reason for my neglecting myself, who am still alive, and ceasing to look after my property?" At this point, it becomes difficult to feel any sympathy with the simple life, which has grown altogether too simple.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Works Slighted

I know, I know. You all want more Bertrand Russell quotes. Well, Daddy needs a little break from his intense, encyclopedic study of the entirety of western philosophy. Bertie'll be back shortly.

I'd like to include some more observations here about interesting things that have happened to me lately.

I'd like to.


Still, great title, eh?

Oh, thought of something. So Sweeney Todd, we all agree, is the greatest musical of all time, after WSS. And like all honest right-thinking people, I'm practically drooling at the chance to see its cinematic premiere. So interest in the music is bound to increase. Be forewarned, all of those new fans who pop up in the coming month--do not buy the original 1979 cast recording. I listened to it last night, and Angela Lansbury's accent is so over the top screechy you'll spend the entire album just praying for Sweeney to turn on her. No, go with the 2004 production with the much more talented Patti LuPone who, besides having an athletic and able voice, gives Mrs. Lovett's character a subtext of Gothic sexuality that's disturbing in all the right ways. The 2004 production is also rather peculiar in that the actors are also the sole musicians, and since there aren't many of them, the whole score has a decidedly minimalist feel. Michael Cerveris is suitably grotesque.

Works Cited

When political power passed into the hands of the Macedonians, Greek philosophers, as was natural, turned aside from politics and devoted themselves more to the problem of individual virtue or salvation. They no longer asked: how can men create a good State? They asked instead: how can men be virtuous in a wicked world, or happy in a world of suffering?

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

There is in Euclid the contempt for practical utility which had been inculcated by Plato. It is said that a pupil, after listening to a demonstration, asked what he would gain by learning geometry, whereupon Euclid called a slave and said "Give the young man threepence, since he must needs make a gain out of what he learns." ... No one, in Greek times, supposed that conic sections had any utility; at least, in teh seventeenth century, Galileo discovered that projectiles move in parabolas, and Kepler discovered that planets move in eclipses. Suddenly the work that the Greeks had done from pure love of theory became the key to warfare and astronomy.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Monday, December 03, 2007

Works Cited

If they are metaphysicians, they may hold, like Hegel, that whatever quality is good is an attribute of the universe as a whole; but they will generally add that it is less mistaken to attribute good to a State than to an individual... We can attribute to a State various predicates that cannot be attributed to its separate members--that it is populous, extensive, powerful, etc. The view we are considering puts ethical predicates in this class, and says that they only derivatively belong to individuals. A man may belong to a populous State, or to a good State; but he, they say, is no more good than he is populous. This view, which has been widely held by German philosophers, is not Aristotle's, except possibly, in some degree, in his conception of justice.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

There are two uses of a thing, one proper, the other improper [says Aristotle]; a shoe, for instance, may be worn, which is its proper use, or exchanged, which is its improper use. It follows that there is something degraded about a shoemaker, who must exchange his shoes in order to live. Retail trade, we are told, is not a natural part of the art of getting wealth. The natural way to get wealth is by skillful management of house and land... Wealth derived from trade is justly hated, because it is unnatural. "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest... Of all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural."

Medieval philosophers were churchmen, and the property of the Church was mainly in land; they therefore saw no reason to revise Aristotle's opinion. Their objection to usury was reinforced by Anti-Semitism, for most fluid capital was Jewish. Ecclesiastics and barons had their quarrels, sometimes very bitter; but they could combine against the wicked Jew who had tided them over a bad harvest by means of a loan, and considered that he deserved some reward for his thrift.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

The Aristotelian view, that the highest virtue is for the few, is logically connected with the subordination of ethics to politics. If the aim is the good community rather than the good individual, it is possible that the good community may be one in which there is subordination. In an orchestra, the first violin is more important than the oboe, though both are necessary for the excellence of the whole. It is impossible to organize an orchestra on the principle of giving each man what would be best for him as an isolated individual. The same sort of thing applies to the government of a large modern State, however democratic. A modern democracy--unlike those of antiquity--confers great power upon certain chosen individuals, Presidents or Prime Ministers, and must expect of them kinds of merit which are not expected of the ordinary citizen.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

A father can repudiate his son if he is wicked [says Aristotle], but a son cannot repudiate his father, because he owes him more than he can possibly repay, especially existence. In unequal relations, it is right, since everybody should be loved in proportion to his worth, that the inferior should love the superior more than the superior loves the inferior: wives, children, subjects, should have more love for husbands, parents, and monarchs than the latter have for them...

The best individual, as conceived by Aristotle, is a very different person from the Christian saint. He should have proper pride, and not underestimate his own merits. He should despise whoever deseerves to be despised. The description of the proud or magnanimous man is very interesting as showing the difference between pagan and Christian ethics, and the sense in which Nietzsche was justified in regarding Christianity as a slave-morality.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I Still Wonder What Would Have Happened If My Twin Had Managed to Eat Me First

I actually make a decent living out of going to the blogs of people I know and leaving annoying comments.

For some reason I tend to write poems in pairs - and in the sense that one eats up the other, they're sometimes like fetal twins.

Posted by: Scoplaw | November 29, 2007 at 02:34 PM

What are the chances! You write poems the same way I get STDs!

Posted by: Scott Scheule | November 29, 2007 at 03:37 PM

Read the Scop's response here.

The Scoplaw metaphors a good simile, but is still held back by his complete inability to write in rhyme. That's why he's getting another Dr. Seuss book this Christmas.

UPDATE: I've gotten like ten emails from people already asking, "Did you really eat your twin?" I'm tempted to respond "What Happens in the Womb, Stays in the Womb"--the Supreme Court will back me up here--but that's not really apropos, since this only happened three months ago. Anyway, it was him or me, loosely interpreted, and sharks do the same thing.

Works Cited

The true elements of the material world, Timaeus says, are not earth, air, fire, and water, but two sorts of right-angled triangles, the one which is half a square and the one which is half an equilateral triangle... The above two sorts of triangles, we are told, are the most beautiful forms, and therefore God used them in constructing matter. By means of these two triangles, it is possible to construct four of the five regular solids, and each atom of one of the four elements is a regular solid. Atoms of earth are cubes; of fire, tetrahedra; of air, octahedra; and of water, icosahedra. (I shall come to the dodecahedron presently.)...

The regular tetrahedron, octahedron, and icosahedron, have equilateral triangles for their faces; the dodecahedron has regular pentagons, and cannot therefore be constructed out of Plato's triangles. For this reason he does not use it in connection with the four elements.

As for the dodecahedron, Plato says only "there was yet a fifth combination which God used in the delineation of the universe." This is obscure, and suggests that the universe is a dodecahedron; but elsewhere it is said to be a sphere. The pentagram has always been prominent in magic... It seems that it owed is properties to the fact that the dodecahedron has pentagons for its faces, and is, in some sense, a symbol of the universe.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Absolute Equality

Russell critiques Plato's argument that knowledge is just recollection.

Take the concept of equality. We must admit that we have no experience, among sensible objects, of exact equality; we see only approximate equality. How, then, do we arrive at the idea of absolute equality? Or do we, perhaps, have no such idea?

Russell clearly falls into the "we have no idea of absolute equality camp."

Plato's answer, on the other hand, is that knowledge is recollection, so even if we had no experience in this life of absolute equality, we did in some past existence.

This is a plank in his argument for immortality, which in Russell's presentation is not persuasive. For one, why must a priori knowledge come from past existence--why not, I don't know, from some form of pure (non-empirical) reason? Surely the Plato of the world of ideas must entertain that such abstract ratiocination is possible. But even if a priori knowledge is from a past life, must past existence guarantee future existence? Russell really rips the immortality argument apart.

At the same time, even if Plato's observation doesn't get him where he wants it to go, the observation that we possess a priori knowledge (from somewhere!) is nonetheless sound. Not to Russell:

Let us take a concrete case. The metre is defined as the length of a certain rod in Paris at a certain termperature. What should we mean if we said, of some other rod, that its length was exactly one metre? I don't think we should mean anything. We could say: The most accurate processes of measusement known to science at the present day fail to show that our rod is either longer or shorter than the standard metre in Paris... But this is still an empirical statement, in the sense that empirical evidence may at any moment disprove it. I do not think we really possess the idea of absolute equality that Plato supposes us to possess.

Quine spent some time hammering at the synthetic-analytic distinction. I feel this is surely related to Russell's criticism of the a priori/a posteriori divide, but I regret my current inability to explain how.

Either way, this whole explanation by Russell doesn't do a thing for me. Now, I agree with Plato, we'll never see absolute equality in nature. Nonetheless, I have complete faith, and I really don't see how Russell cannot, that I could recognize a rod exactly one meter should I ever come across it. At present, I can also accurately recognize a rod that is not exactly one meter. (By meter, in all this, I use Russell's definition: "The length of that rod in Paris"). Moreover, not only could I recognize such equality, I can even imagine it. It takes virtually no effort to dream up two absolutely equal rods--how do I do this if I have not the knowledge Russell denies?

This is all wishful thinking on Russell's part. People don't like the irksome problem of "Where do we get our premises from?" (Russell even admits this puzzle earlier). Grounding them as deductive won't do, since deduction can only produce conclusions from premises thrown in, and empirical knowledge produces the same endless line of justification (how do we know we know we know?) So we either deny such premises exist or distract ourselves by harping on the empirical side of the divide, where our starting points are more universal and thus, more apt to escape notice.

Incidentally, Russell has a better criticism of Plato's argument, so far as immortality goes. Even, says he, if we grant that we have a notion of absolute equality, it would seem to only be possessed by fully reasoning adults, certainly not newborns. Where are these supposed memories of the immortal child before he learns to properly reason? Held in escrow somewhere?

Works Cited

These [Pythagorean] studies are not to be pursued in any utilitarian spirit, but in order to prepare [the young man's] mind for the vision of eternal things. In astronomy, for example, he is not to trouble himself too much about the actual heavenly bodies, but rather with the mathematics of the motion of ideal heavenly bodies. This may sound absurd to modern ears, but, strange to say, it proved to be a fruitful point of view in connection with empirical astronomy...

The apparent motions of the planets, until they have been very profoundly analysed, appear to be irregular and complicated, and not at all such as a Pythagorean Creator would have chosen... The problem thus arose: is there any hypothesis which will reduce the apparent disorderliness of planetary motions to order and beauty and simplicity?... Aristarchus of Samos found such a hypothesis: that all the planets, including the earth, go round the sun in circles. This view was rejected for two thousand years, party on the authority of Aristotle... It was revived by Copernicus, and its success might seem to justify Plato's aesthetic bias in astronomy. Unfortunately, however, Kepler discovered that the planets move in ellipses, not in circles, with sun at a focus, not at the centre; then Newton discovered that they do not move even in exact ellipses.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Works Cited

Philosophy, for Plato, is a kind of vision, the "vision of truth." It is not purely intellectual; it is not merely wisdom, but love of wisdom... Everyone who has done any kind of creative work has experienced, in a greater or less degree, the state of mind in which, after long labour, truth, or beauty, appears, or seems to appear, in a sudden glory...

This experience, I believe, is necessary to good creative work, but it is not sufficient; indeed the subjective certainty that it brings with it may be fatally misleading. William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was: "A smell of petroleum prevails throughout."

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

My Physical

You know you're a grownup when you're able to make small talk while a complete stranger is prodding your junk like there was something written down there in Braille.

I love being interviewed about my health. It's nothing spectacular, but what a feeling of accomplishment to hear a huge list of possible maladies and answer I've had none. "Ever had rickets?" "No!" "Heart disease?" "Nope!" "Hearing problems?" "Never!" "Cancer?" "Nada!" "Sleep apnea?" "Nuh-uh." "Been sodomized by a European man in the middle of a bathhouse?" "Does Turkey count as Europe?" "No." "Nope!"

I'm flattered that the older I get the more parts of my body people seem to be interested in. Nooks and crannies that previously weren't getting much play nowadays are at the top of the doctor's list.

Constantly saying "Like what you see?" may seem funny in your head, but it really just makes the exam longer and more awkward.

You've got the option between complete nudity and a paper gown. Paper gown? Bullshit. I've already had to scribble my name on a paper cup full of my own urine, do I really have that much pride left to protect?

"How many times a week do you drink?" "I never drink. Now ask me how many times a week I lie to doctors."

In sum, I'll be alive for a long, long time, and will be bouncing around the universe long after wearing out my welcome.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

From the Archives

I generally hate anything I've written more than a week in the past. I don't know if this indicates that I'm getting smarter at an exponential rate (though i am--i've even evolved beyond the need for proper Capitalization) or that my typical blog post is just intellectual refuse my brain needs to occasionally crap out, but the fact remains that any Scheule writing that's older than your current carton of milk is one I'll happily disavow.

Nonetheless, on a whim I just read an old post of mine at Catallarchy, and I still like it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That's Not Funny!

I just spent an hour trying to find a doctor, and I don't care what kind, who will write me a prescription for Paxil (I had gone to the Georgetown Law Clinic for my seratonin-adjusting needs, but since they tricked me into graduating, I don't think I'm welcome there). Since I'm at work, God knows what the ten coworkers of mine within earshot of my cubicle think of my acceleratingly desperate pleas for mood-enhancing drugs to various physicians in the greater Washington DC area. I'm so tempted right now to exert a huge sigh, then audibly pretend to place an order for some handgun ammo.

(Finally found someone, a nice father and son practice in Arlington. Incidentally, Aetna, your website fucking sucks. Either update your information or disable the Find a Doc feature. I called at least a dozen places that reported "We no longer accept Aetna" [which, let me tell you, inspires a lot of confidence in my healthcare provider] or "Hi, this is Starbucks-formerly-the-Mental-Health-Center-of-Howard-University-Hospital.")

I know what you're wondering, and no, baristas do not have prescription pads. Those are solely the province of the manager, and that guy wouldn't give me anything unless I agreed to come in and buy a triple espresso first.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Also Managed to Smack My Own Ass

So your typical racquetball round between Jay and me consists of a few solid shots with every successive return requiring more and more complex acrobatics to reach the ball in time. It's like a game of twister--by the fourth return you're typically throwing the racquet at the ball, or hopping on one leg and trying to pull off some weird jump off the wall move you once saw Jean-Claude Van Damme do in Timecop and swinging wildly. Yesterday, I somehow managed to miss a return and slam the racquet into my left hand.

[11:58:12 AM] Scott says: You should see how purple my finger is!

[11:58:27 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You have a cameraphone. You should blog it.

[11:59:14 AM] Scott says: I don't have a cameraphone. But if I did, the caption would be: "It's like I got to third base with Grimace!"

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Do You See a Duck?" "Nope, Just Some Jerk Holding a Rabbit."

One of my favorite pieces is Turangalîla. Part piano concerto, part tone poem, part symphony, tuneful, glorious exemplar of modernist orchestration, frightening, lush, rhythmic: it's unforgettable.

My Thanksgiving was great. It started Tuesday evening. The Chinatown bus was late, and even though I had a ticket for the 6:00 to Philly, when it finally rolled up at 7:30, there weren't enough seats. So I waited another half-hour for the 8 o'clock. We made decent time, passed a few accidents, but really got sloshed in traffic when we approached Philly on 95, which--I swear to God, for no reason whatsoever--had been closed down to one lane. No construction going on, no accidents, just a line of orange cones corralling us down to single file.

I could complain, but any bus ride when you don't get stuck sitting next to an obese guy is a good bus ride, and this was one of those. I got in at quarter to midnight, and asked David if I could stay with him for the night. So I got to see Paige's and his apartment--finding out your baby, non-attorney brother has a (way!) nicer apartment than you is a fine way of starting any holiday. Wednesday, he took me around Philadelphia and showed me various places where It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia had been filmed, plus some Rocky, and also the bridge under which some guy who'd shot a cop recently had drowned. Since I grew up fifteen minutes from Philly, most of this tour was unnecessary, but the weather was nice. Jacob, who'd agreed to come, called to say he was too sick to make it up. I told him he didn't sound sick.

By the time David and I got to Jersey, I'd guilted Jacob into coming up anyway. We picked him up Thanksgiving morning and brought him home with us, like a starving pup. David, Jacob and I played Scrabble: halfway through the game I tried to use the word "Qualias," which would have won me the game if it had been an actual word.

Much cooking later, Mom had dinner ready. Aunt Suzi, Uncle Pash, their kids, my grandmother and great Aunt, proceeded to eat. I had like a gajillion slices of pecan pie. After dinner, Steven and Michael hooked up their Wii, which I'd never played before. I kicked some ass at Wii-bowling, held my own in Wii-boxing, but Jacob destroyed all of us at Wii-Duck Hunt by entering some kind of bizarre Jedi mindtrance. The next day Mom told me I'd been drunk, but her evidence for that was circumstantial at best: I laughed a lot, made dirty puns, implied Dad was gay, and pissed myself in the middle of the living room (I pointed out I did 3 out of 4 of those items before I even had my first drink).

Jacob went home Friday, which marks the first time he's visited and a beloved member of our family hasn't died. (We broke the streak, Jake! Told you we could do it!) Richard, Erin (Richard's girl), David and I went back into Philly to feed Erin's cats, and her rabbit, Puff. I picked up Puff, turned his head to the side, and said, "Look! Do you see a duck?" No one got the Psych 101 reference (see here), so I sulked for the rest of the day.

The next day was Dad, David, Richard, and Aunt Peggy's birthday party. I gave Dad the first season of the greatest television show on today, The Wire. Richard and I spent some time in the woods, testing out the various forts and swings we'd built in our backyard when we were kids. The tree fort down at the stream had a few steps that gave way under Richard's bulk, but the ravine-swing held together; I got my foot stuck in it and swung over the ravine upsidedown a few times like an animal caught in a snare. I screamed for help and Richard pointed and laughed. We stacked firewood. The next day my entire back was sore, and I've told myself this is because of the firewood stacking and not Wii-boxing.

The bus ride back yesterday was much easier, since I was sleep-deprived and generally snored the entire trip. I spent the day reading Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy and had my most socially dramatic Final Fantasy XI session yet (which my character subsequently wrote about.)

DAVID: Why did Benjamin Franklin do that experiment? Was he just trying to find out if lightning would strike a metal object?

SCOTT: No. He just really hated keys.

Of Course, Spelling is Just a Social kkkonstruct of Privileged White Mails

[12:30:28 PM] Scott says: I'll higher a surrogate.

[12:30:35 PM] Scott says: Man, did I just write higher instead of hire?

[12:30:41 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Yes, you did.

[12:30:48 PM] Scott says: I can spell, just not the write word.

[12:31:50 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You did not write the right word right, so it's misspelled.

[12:32:36 PM] Scott says: But eye rote the wrong word write!

[12:39:39 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: I cringe every time you do that. Seriously.

[12:39:46 PM] Scott says: I no.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Micha vaguely tried to capture my position on religion, but to no avail, for I have kept that position so vague as to be unstateable. And if you can't state it, you can't criticize it, which is why I spell my name "Scottdrkt."

Ha, kidding. No, to the contrary, my position on religion is actually quite explicable, and I will explick it shortly. Said position is carefully designed to irritate as many people as humanly possible, and nearly everyone finds something in it to complain about. You will too!

First, there is no God. I have no knockdown argument for that bold assertion, rather simply a lack of personal evidence. I don't feel God in my life--some people do, but I don't, and I trust my own observations more than other peoples'. It's possible some day such evidence will present itself, but nothing I've seen to this point suggests such an event is on the horizon.

Now, that should offend a large number of you. Time to go after the remainder.

Second, it's not clear there is no God. Hell, it's not even clearly probable. All of the simple arguments against God are weak. The whole "there is no evidence for God claim" doesn't work, because there is arguendo lots of evidence for God--personal revelation, intuition. The real argument is over what counts as evidence, and no rule to define evidence, such as "only empirical third-party observeable data counts as evidence" suffices. That would rule out much of what we non-solipsists take to be true, such as axiomatic statements and various aspects of consciousness, without even getting into Hume's induction problem.

Now that's enough for me to doubt any kind of clear divide between what is science and what isn't, or what we have justification to believe and what we don't. I think that divide is there, but it's not enough to simply say, science relies on logical positivism and theology doesn't, ergo, trust in science. Or something of the like. And this whole queasiness, and knowing the majority of the world disagrees with my position on the existence of God, is enough to make me humble holding it.

I think the best I can do is point out that many religions differ quite a bit, but that's only reason to distrust any particular incarnation of God, not the general core religions share.

Now, if I've done my job, that last few paragraph pushed the amount of people annoyed with my position up to 99%. This next part has nothing to do with religion, but I include it just to alienate that last one percent: morality exists objectively, and we can detect it intuitively.

Also, Dane Cook isn't funny.

Things I Should Get Paid For

A staggering amount of people want to know what I've been listening to. Despite some embarassing entries--e.g. the soundtrack to Dan in Real Life (God, I loved that movie. Marry moi, Juliette!), the symphonic suite from the SNES game Actraiser--the majority of my listening over the past few months consists of the kind of fine art one would expect of someone who pretends elite sophistication, as I do.

Those in the know know that I've developed a precise science to listening to music, governed by certain principles of natural law I intuited. First off, you've got to listen to a particular album 20 times. No exceptions: 20 times. 20 is the perfect number to absorb a new piece of music. This derives from Brahms and Wagner's longstanding debate:

Dearest Richard,

20 times is the perfect number, for 20 is 2 multipled by ten, which makes it even. Evenness of course brings to mind the precise symmetry of the classical age.

Mozartistically Yours,

Dearerest Johannes,

21 times is the perfect number, because it's one more than 20, representing the progress we've made since the classical era, which we're no longer in (you haven't noticed this).

As ever,
Richard "Rhymes with Bard" Wagner

P.S. Fuck your 20, fuck the Jews, and fuck you.

It loses nothing in the translation!

So 20 is the number, with these exceptions. Obviously if you've already heard the performance, there's no reason to listen to it 20 times again. If you've heard the piece, but not this particular performance, then you're already familiar enough that only half the listening (half is 50% of 100%) is required, just enough to glean the nuances of the new performance, that being, ten times.

And now, what I listened to these past months. Well the big project was John O'Conor's box set of the Beethoven piano sonatas, which I'd gotten for Christmas years ago but had yet to really delve into. These took 3 months, give or take, to get all the way through, and provided the soundtrack for my Bar studying (I passed it: Mozart effect my ass).

The cycle is a triumph of the classical music genre, from the famous Waldstein to the untitled gems no one knows about, like No.3 in C, or No.6 in F, or everything but the first movement of No.13 (in E-flat). There is a subpar set of sonatinas that some publisher smuggled in as actual sonatas under the Op.49, but even those are charming. As we near the end of the catalog, the works get grander and more robust, like the Ops.109 and 111, and the gargantuan Hammerklavier.

After that, I turned my attention to the Gardiner cycle of the Symphonies. Gardiner is famous for his historically-inspired performances, and he doesn't disappoint, keeping the tempi snappy and constant, without the romantic excess of Furtwangler, et al.

This was really my first time listening to Nos.2 and 4, the lesser known symphonies, which rock, and gave me a chance to revisit Eroica and No.9, which are certainly the most complex and need relistening. The first movement of the Fifth is so thoroughly ingrained in me now it takes constant exertion not to skip the track, but the 4th movement it still fresh and makes up for it. No.8's my current favorite, though this will change as I bore of it (I'm a man, you see).

I spent a couple weeks on a CD of Copland I had, Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid, plus a couple of Hispanic-inspired pieces. Copland's underrated.

Then it was the Tchaikovsky Symphony Cycle, Haitink conducting. Tchaikovsky is my unrivalled boy. Listening to him led me to vent to my friend Louis about how great he was, with Louis agreeing at times. With Tchaikovsky, you have complete assurances of at least one singable tune in every movement. But a tune ain't everything, contra Webber, so Tchaikovsky fleshes it with skilled orchestration and a logical dramatic narrative. Sonata form is high tragedy in Tchaikovsky's hands: the secondary subject of the classics was meant to add contrast to the principle theme. For Tchaikovsky, it's more--a character or a catharsis. Developments aren't just play--they're rising action, climax, and defeat.

Sometimes he gets lost in what he's trying to say, like in Manfred, but the ride is always enjoyable. Four's the best, Five and Six tie for second, 1-3 are all a step below the latter three, but each pleasant and all capped with a vivid finale. Manfred's an acquired taste. The tone poems are fine ("The Storm"), fun ("Capriccio Italien," "1812 Overture") or both ("Francesca.")

Just finished off a Klemperer recording of Bach's B minor Mass, which is a piece I find myself loving more and more, and am now listening to some harp music written by, among others, my former composition professor.

Works Cited

[Pythagoras] founded a religion, of which the main tenets were the transmigration of souls and the sinfulness of eating beans. His religion was embodied in a religious order, which, here and there, acquired control of the State and established a rule of the saints. But the unregenerate hankered after beans, and sooner or later rebelled.

Some of the rules of the Pythagorean order were:

1. To abstain from beans.
2. Not to pick up what has fallen.
3. Not to touch a white cock.
4. Not to break bread.
5. Not to step over a crossbar.
6. Not to stir the fire with iron.
7. Not to eat from a whole loaf.
8. Not to pluck a garland.
9. Not to sit on a quart measure.
10. Not to eat the heart.
11. Not to walk on highways.
12. Not to let swallows share one's roof.
13. When the pot is taken off the fire, not to leave the mark of it in the ashes, but to stir them together.
14. Do not look in a mirror beside a light.
15. When you rise from the bedclothes, roll them together and smooth out the impress of the body.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Friday, November 16, 2007


I passed a Bar. And no, this isn't just another description in the life of a teetotaler--I had to take that joke so none of you would feel compelled to make it. It was the NY Bar, which is the hardest bar of all in many respects, because we're forced to take it in Albany. The Albany economy is entirely dependent upon Bar applicants gathering, like locusts, every summer--it's like Christmas, but with more suicide.

I feel like I've accomplished something, but I also felt that way finishing my first and only novel--which I incinerated. Not to say I'm going to burn down Albany--that would be arson, which I think is illegal.

[11:54:58 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: God damnit. Why do I have technical problems whenever I try to get work done?

[11:56:16 AM] Scott says: I don't know. When was the last time you went to church?

[11:56:40 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: I'm blaming sunspots.

[11:58:05 AM] Scott says: You can't blame sunspots, I'm already using them as the reason I haven't had sex in a year.

What's that? You didn't know I took the Bar? I wrote all about it here!

Ten minutes after finding out I passed the Bar, I changed my long-running position on licensure, which it turns out is awesome. Not only does it allow me to collect above market rents--which lawyers need because law school is so damned expensive--but it also keeps those who can't afford law school or Barbri from practicing law. This is good because poor people make bad choices anyway, and I know that because one week in college I ate Ramen noodles for a week, and that's the week I decided to major in music. Also your average poor person, usually cursed with some manner of hump or undeveloped siamese twin, will not fit into a decent suit. So the tailors are the real problem, and that's why they can't practice law either (even though they're called lawsuits).

In sum, remember when choosing a lawyer that I was the first one to finish the New York Bar exam, and though I probably didn't get the highest score, I got the not-highest score the fastest. So if you've got the choice between an attorney who will show up at 7 AM sharp, with an obviously freshly dry-cleaned suit, and me, who will be jogging fifteen minutes behind him while pulling on a shirt and cleaning up some stubble with an electric razor, remember: the other guy's smarter, of course, but I'm still competent. And a lot better rested. Plus I'm not going to judge you for running that red light and hitting that old lady--that's what this case is about, right? Or was that my other client?--because chances are I nailed two or three myself on the way over this morning.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Best Material is Macroeconomic

JACOB: So I'm going to meet Bernanke.

SCOTT: You should ask him to sign a dollar bill. Ooo! And then ask him to sign 1.6 Canadian dollars.

Where Exactly Did That Birthday Sweater Come From?

Scott: I know what I can do. I'll dress Jay up like you and bring him.

Phocas: we look very similar
esp. the beard

Scott: The back hair's going to be the real giveaway. But I can tell Jay to just glue some on.

Phocas: yeah - I have some in my drain if he needs

Scott: All right! And we can make some rope with the leftover.

Phocas: it's pretty much already in rope form

Scott: I know you're trying to gross me out, but I'm just getting turned on.

Phocas: meh, either way works for me

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


SCOTT: So I've been making an effort to be more social around the office.

JAY: Oh?

SCOTT: And now the entire office is annoyed with me. I live a tough life.

JAY: What have you been saying?

SCOTT: Like the other day, this guy was coming out of the bathroom and I said: "Hey! None of that on company time!"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Watercooler Talk

Jelena: Another thing about Don Giovanni: the ending is really silly.

Scott: Silly? What's silly about it?

Jelena: Come on, a walking statue!

Scott: Look, back then they didn't know that statues couldn't walk. You have to judge these things by the standards of the day.


Jelena: I know our cubicles are supposed to look quite professional, what with the overhead compartment opening upwards.

In fact, you can fit a human body in one of those.

How do you know that?

Scott: ... So I've got to be getting back to work.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Marvelstein Comics

[10:22:28 AM] Scott says: My brother wants to come up with a huge line of Jewish comic books. The only character I could think of: The Human Menora.

[10:24:47 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Jewfro's obvious.

[10:25:02 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Maybe The Dreidel.

[10:25:25 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: There could be a guy like Odd Job from Goldfinger, except he would throw yarmulkes.

[10:26:14 AM] Scott says: Solomon the Barbarian.

[10:27:20 AM] Scott says: Matza would be a good sidekick.

[10:29:39 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Gfilte Fish could be a villian's name.

[10:30:10 AM] Scott says:
Or Shiksa--the evil and beautiful temptress.

[10:30:26 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Ooh, that's good.

[10:32:30 AM] Scott says: How about a Hulk type character: The He-Brute?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pyramidgate - The Fallout

Hanah: you made me start laughing in Sasha's class.

Scott: ... Take that, professor Volokh.

Hanah: did you really draw a picture of the pyramids?

Scott: I've got it right in front of me right now. Jay's got ninja swords, and he's being attacked by a dimetrodon.

Hanah: ... maybe you could fax it to Sasha

Scott: I hope he's not offended [by] the cartoon of him being mauled by tigers.
(He's the stick figure with the fro)

Hanah: ... you're a bit slow with the blogs this morning, aren't yoU?

Scott: Whoa, sorry, Speedy Gonzales, some of us don't have the luxury that you have, being able to get up at 5 in the morning. Some of us have to stay up late playing video games and sleep ten straight hours.

Hanah: poor thing

Scott: Pity me. Plus, I haven't been hugged in weeks.

Hanah: Jay will be back soon.

Scott: I know. I'm kind of hurt that he asked Erica to take care of his cats and not me.

Hanah: I'm sure he would have asked Erica to take care you if he'd thought about it.

Scott: HAHA. If I was in Sasha's class, you would have just made me laugh out loud.

Hanah: :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Also No Trees to Fly Between

[3:29:46 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You want to hear something weird? There's a radio show we do at 8:30 PM DC time. The show is in Guam, where it's 10:30 in the morning, but it's tomorrow morning. If we did the show from here in Cairo, it would be 2:30 AM, the same day as it is in Guam.

[3:32:15 PM] Scott says: There's a Star Trek episode where they discuss a means of defeating the Borg. The idea is to implant them with this vision of a ridiculously advanced, curved shape, which was designed to overload their neural nets or something since it would take forever to fully understand its structure. What you just wrote probably would have done the trick just as easily.

[3:32:42 PM] Scott says: I'm going to have [to] draw some charts to figure this out.

[3:33:21 PM] Scott says: This is actually great, because Pyramids are one of the only things I can draw.

[3:40:36 PM] Scott says: ...I still don't understand the time zones. But the sunrise over Guam turned out really well in my diagram. Also, scale wise, you're about half the height of a pyramid.

[3:40:53 PM] Scott says: Point being, this is going to become my first cubicle decoration.

[3:41:36 PM] Scott says: Now whenever I get blue, I'll just turn to my right and be transported to the tropic skies of Guam.

[3:41:42 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Is your pyramid 3-D, or just a triangle?

[3:41:59 PM] Scott says: Oh, it's 3-D baby. It's like it's popping right out at me.

[3:42:42 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You're going to poke your eye out!

[3:43:02 PM] Scott says: You're right. I'm going to draw some corks on the tops of those things.

[3:44:15 PM] Scott says: Not bad! Considering cork is one of the hardest things to draw.

[3:44:26 PM] Scott says: However, for the second pyramid, I cheated a bit and used imitation cork.

[3:44:45 PM] Scott says: Also, now you're a Ninja.

[3:44:50 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Awesome.

[3:44:56 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Though the black will be hot in the desert.

[3:45:43 PM] Scott says: And thus the two men, without even intending it, finally solved the age old problem: "Why are there no Ninjas in the desert?"

[3:47:53 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:

Monday, November 05, 2007

Thought for Food

I put my lunch break off for a long time. I usually get hunger pangs around 10 or 11, but I just ignore them and they go away, like all bodily urges. I've been puzzling over why I do this, and I think the answer may be that I just like the anticipation of my daily Subway foot-long and extend that anticipation gratuitously.

I bet saving sex for marriage is really this same urge writ large. That's also why you put off reading this post for so long. But damn, it feels good to be reading it now, doesn't it? The point is--I'm like food and honeymoon sex. Anyway, I just absent-mindedly chewed up and swallowed a piece of paper and most of my right pinky (which I won't miss, it being the most socialist of all the fingers), so I'm taking my break.

To tide you over until your next helping of me, I enclose some quotations from correspondence between my former professor, John Cage specialist, spectacular pianist, and dear friend, Louis Goldstein and me:

Scott --> Louis:

But Manfred is a little baffling, formwise. Still, that fugue in the fourth movement kicks ass!

Louis --> Scott:

It took umpteen million hundred of listenings and then I got it, and still sometimes I don't. Then I some point I realized that I LOVED form in music... And Mahler kicks ass.

There is, of course, much more, but I have strived to keep this presentation positively Webernian! (Don't even pretend to understand that unless you have a music degree, like I do.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Correspondence with our Man in Cairo

[1:08:01 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: I wonder where we're going for dinner. I think the conference is paying for all of our meals, which is really cool.

[1:08:09 PM] Scott says: Dude, sweet.

[1:08:14 PM] Scott says: Order the lobster.

[1:08:17 PM] Scott says: The Arabian lobster.

[1:08:22 PM] Scott says: Which is goat.

[1:10:44 PM] Scott says: I found a missing sock! It was in the sleeve of a shirt that's been hanging in the closet for the last month.

[1:11:24 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Woohoo!

[1:11:30 PM] Scott says: That's pretty much all that's happened since you've left.

Also exciting, today I wore a shirt missing a button. After a coworker noticed my visible navel, I cleverly remedied the situation by use of a paperclip. Very MacGyver, except I used a handgun while doing this.

Speaking of handguns:

So anyway, [the first interpretation of the Second Amendment is] right... and the Supreme Court knows it, but they haven't taken the opportunity to say so because for the past fifty years the Court's been quite hesitant to protect Constitutional rights when those Constitutional rights aren't completely imaginary. On the other hand, expect a case protecting the right of juvenile transvestites to be free of excessive punitive damages later this term.

UPDATE: Jay Goodman Tamboli has passed the Maryland Bar, the only legal bar exam that requires proper dissection and labelling of an authentic Chesapeake blue-shelled crab.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This Puts Me in League with Adrian Brody and Isabelle Huppert!

Hanah: plus, everyone there is good looking, so your chances are lower (no offense) because of the competition

me: Wow. Ouch.

no, really. That's what I tell my sister

You're reasonably hot in a normal place.

I can be quite good looking with the proper hat.

But in L.A., the curve is much higher.

concentration of movie stars

and anorexic people

it's kind of gross, actually

me: "Reasonably hot in a normal place" is going on my resume.

One of Those Days

It's going to be one of those days, one of those days when you race into the bathroom, jump in front of the nearest urinal, fish around for five minutes without any luck before finally admitting to yourself that yes, you've once again put your underwear on backwards.

Turkey! Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

Jay's going to Turkey for a week or so to hold a camera in front of some talkshow host and also not get kidnapped and held hostage. Like most events in life, this calls for Scotch, so I bought some last night and we drank it. Of course, I clucked concernedly, weaving in caring questions such as, "Have you updated your will since you've met me?" between more crass comments indicating my complete ignorance of all places non-American. "How big is the camel you'll be riding?" Then it was off to Best Buy, to get some adaptors for Turkish outlets. Now, there is no such thing as an American-Turkish adaptor, but there are Franco-Turkish adaptors, and Spanish-Franco adaptors, and you can find an American-Spanish adaptor anywhere, so really you can build your own Turko-American adaptor with a little duct tape and imagination. Pretty pointless though, since I'm pretty sure they don't have electricity over there.

SCOTT: Jay you remember a while ago, we were discussing the doctrine of modal realism? I told you that Lewis was troubled by the idea that one of the basic axioms of his stance was that possible worlds have no interaction with one another, but nonetheless, we can easily imagine a world that can interact with other worlds. Now your response was quite simply that he should define "possible worlds" as only those worlds which can't interact with each other, otherwise he runs into all these Goedelian problems. I've been thinking about that, and my response is this: yes, we can define "possible" that way, but why should we? A world that interacts with other worlds is clearly possible, so just redefining "possible" strikes me as a dictionary dodge. I have nothing new to add to the discussion beyond that, but I've been wanting to say that for a while and the topic hasn't been coming up in conversation. So I just jumped in.


JAY: IP Law.

SCOTT: Yeah, well I bleed justice. Now if we could just find someone who craps the American Way, we'll be set.


SCOTT: If you die, I'm going to argue that we were common law married and try and get your will invalidated. Dozens of people will testify that we spend a suspicious amount of time together.

JAY: I'm tempted to fake my own death just so I can watch that.


[1:06:30 PM] Scott says: Exxon down.

[5:48:10 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Oh, no!

[5:51:38 PM] Scott says: At least they were at 1 PM when I called.

[5:52:23 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:

[5:53:45 PM] Scott says: I'm ruined!

[5:53:57 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: You should diversify.

[5:54:13 PM] Scott says: I don't want to have to keep track of TWO stocks!

[5:54:51 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Makin' money ain't easy.

[5:55:07 PM] Scott says: Unless you're in the federal reserve.

[5:55:45 PM] Scott says: Damn it! I should have said something about your mom being on a corner.

[5:56:12 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: L'espirit d'escalier burn!

[5:56:35 PM] Scott says: Le high-cinq!

[5:56:42 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: lol

[5:56:52 PM] Scott says: When did we get so classy?

Monday, October 29, 2007


me: Whatchu doing in Boston?

Hanah: Libertarian cconference

me: Ah, the Cabal. How's the movement coming?

Hanah: Great. Lots of smart grad atudents, esp. the women

me: Things sure have changed. In my day, it was all a bunch of undersexed men working for their GEDs.

Hanah: 5 women out of 15 attendees, but they were way more interesting than the men. 3 unmarried

me: Most women are more interesting than men. Most of that is due to the breasts.

Hanah: True

me: How do they work? What are they for? These questions keep me up nights.

Hanah: Feeding babies


me: Jay has a beard. He's trying to look Turkish for his upcoming trip/

Hanah: Beards are bizarre. How do they work? What are they for?

me: Also feeding babies.

Hanah: Intriguing

me: Mine secretes mashed peas.

Hanah: Runaway rocking chair!

me: That shouldn't be possible!

Hanah: It was dragging a woman behind it

me: My God! Has the already fragile alliance b/w man and rocking chair come to an end??

Hanah: She seems to have gotten the better of it now.

me: There's a lawyer position in LA. If I worked there, it would be just like that TV show!

Hanah: Definitely

me: Seinfeld. But with lawyers.

Hanah: Seinfeld is in ny

me: Right, like an LA Seinfeld with lawyers.

The News


GIRL on cell phone: What? Where are you? Oh, one second. (Holds up cell phone)) Listen! My friend's at a Sting concert. Here, you can actually hear him performing.

SCOTT: Wow. Sting over the phone is better than Huey Lewis in person.

ANOTHER GIRL: You're terrible. (Punches me in the arm and gets off the Metro.)

FIRST GIRL: Did you know that girl?


FIRST GIRL: She hit you really hard.

SCOTT: I guess she's a Huey Lewis fan.

Monday, October 15, 2007

At the Symphony

SCOTT: I'm going to be honest with you, Sasha: I've had more attractive dates.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Schubert's Ninth

Hanah: alas
at least you get to go to a concert with Sasha

I'm psyched. I'm familiarizing myself with the program as we speak.

sounds sketchy

Scott: What's sketchy about rolling around naked in sheet music?

nothing. Nothing at all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Learning Racquetball

Scene 1: Scott is reading a sign outside of a racquetball court.

SCOTT: (reading) "You are required to wear goggles in the court"? Yeah, whatever, I'll get right on that.

Scene 2: In court, two minutes later.

Ah! My eye!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Signed up for a gym membership, back to daily visits, and Jay and I are going to print out a Wikipedia version of the official rules of racquetball and figure it out.

A few weeks ago, Jay and I argued about self-worth. This arose from my complaint about self-esteem gurus teaching their pupils to love themselves no matter what. My criticism was that this teaches people to fool themselves into feeling like they're worthwhile people (when in reality, they're just the same people they always were), when instead they should be going out and becoming worthwhile people.

Jay's response was that I was presuming that people's initial self-evaluation is accurate and that the self-esteem lesson is a distortion of that accuracy, whereas he believes the opposite: that people systematically undervalue themselves, and these self-esteem lessons are really teaching people to value themselves accurately.

Formally, or at least moreso, Person X thinks he'll be a worthwhile person if he accomplishes goal G. I think that Person X is right. Jay thinks X is wrong--instead, X is already a worthwhile person, goal G achieved or not.

That's the exhibition--I have no solution, though obviously I'm right and Jay isn't.

(Though finding who's right seems problematic, it's no more so than any form of knowledge. We always trade off one impression--be it self-evaluative, aural, et al--against another that we rank as more likely true, which is why high school seniors in AP Chemistry lab can't disprove basic theories of molecular combination, no matter the color or consistency of their final compounds.)

[5:34:01 PM] Scott says: How about dinner and racquetball?

[5:34:19 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: I'm eating now, and I'm probably going to go to bed early.

[5:34:28 PM] Scott says: So that's a no and a no.

[5:34:35 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Yup. Tired and hungry.

[5:34:42 PM] Scott says: You're afraid of my skills.

[5:34:50 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Not at all.

[5:35:03 PM] Scott says: I should warn you. Said skills are mad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Every Life Consists of Stark, Unpleasant Choices

Such as do I sign up for a gym membership, or do I buy some new pants?

I've opted for the former.

On the upside though, I did have my best jog ever today. Three miles and not once did my life flash before my eyes. An 8 year old girl pointed at me and shrieked to her mother, "EWWWWWWW! He's not wearing a shirt!"

While not precisely complimentary, I've heard worse.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Blog Remains Your Source for Discussion of Politics, Fine Art, and...

[3:33:18 PM] Scott says: There should be a name for the laughter-induced fart.

[3:33:26 PM] Scott says: I dub it, the "guffart."

[3:33:34 PM] Scott says: Thoughts?

[3:34:05 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Too clever. It should be more comical.

[3:34:31 PM] Scott says: FOL?

[3:34:39 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: heh

[3:34:40 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: I like that.

Friday, September 07, 2007


BEGGAR: You've got a nice stroll.

Excuse me?

BEGGAR: Everyone else is rushing back and forth, but you're just strolling around relaxed.

ME: Ah. That's because I'm an intern--and don't have a real job.

BEGGAR: Can I have some money?

ME: No.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I do find some kind of dualism to be the best medium between the intuitive and empirical, regardless of the bulk of philosophers' opinions.

If dualism is true in its more robust causative form: that is to say, the mind can act causatively on the brain, and doesn't just supervene on certain neural states, there's a promising avenue of verification. Simply find effects within the brain with no physical cause, which would presumably precede actions we take to be voluntary. For instance, a neuron could fire seemingly of its own accord. Or, if quantum mind theories are correct (as I dreamily fantasize), wave functions collapsing or whatever it is those things do.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Works Cited

In the center of that open space, a bony woman in a threadbare garment was hunched over a dead plant.

Sword of Divine Fire's reaction was succinct: "Fuck!" The woman cringed as if he'd hit her with a bullwhip. Then: "What has happened to our potato?"

Neal Stephenson, The Confusion

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Week in Skype Messages


[9:53:44 AM] Scott says: I couldn't get to sleep Wednesday night, so around 4 AM it occurred to me I could get wasted and that would put me to sleep. So I broke into Bob's rum. This put me to sleep, but I didn't get up till 1.

[9:53:56 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
lol. OK

[9:54:16 AM] Scott says:
In retrospect, not one of my better ideas.

[4:19:50 PM] Scott says:
I've got to buy a bottle of Rum for Bob, since I drank his. But his bottle wasn't full, so I'm entitled to half. What say you?

[4:20:20 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Does he know you drank it? If you drank it without his permission, I think he's entitled to some interest or something.

[4:20:56 PM] Scott says:
Why would he be entitled to interest? I didn't check it out of his rum account at the bank where it was earning a steady 5%.

[4:21:11 PM] Scott says:
If anything, he's getting fresher rum out of the deal.

[4:21:23 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Does rum go bad?

[4:21:39 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
But you deprived him of the possibility of drinking rum that night. Surely that's worth something.

[4:22:10 PM] Scott says:
He's in Florida. Or San Francisco. Somewhere.

[4:22:39 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
What he doesn't know can't hurt him. You owe him a half-bottle.

[4:24:39 PM] Scott says:
Though I suppose he could have called Wed night and said to give his rum to somebody--and I did rob him of that choice. But I think I've got an implied licence to drink a roommate's stuff so long as I replace it.


[4:45:38 PM] Scott says:
Make sure you read that article on the usefulness of men.

[4:45:46 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
That thing was fucking long.

[4:48:31 PM] Scott says: That's what she--nah, too easy.


[4:58:34 PM] Scott says:
I'm out. Want to come to my place, watch something or other?

[4:59:03 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Sure. Should I bring something to watch, or do you have enough Weeds, Wire, and whatever else?

[4:59:26 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
And should I bring some scotch? If you tell me what kind of rum, I might be able to get it at Schneider's for you.

[5:00:32 PM] Scott says:
Bacardi Superior, I believe was the name. Actually by the end of the evening, it was more like Bacardi Bacardi Superior Superior.

[5:00:43 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
heh. OK.

[5:00:44 PM] Scott says:
Check for the first one, and the latter if you can't find that.

[5:00:49 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:


[11:28:21 PM] Scott says:
I hid the rum from myself and now I can't find it.

[11:28:26 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:

[11:28:49 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: That is my new away message.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


At the very least, I got in my run today. Also did some abwork, and lots of laundry. Bob's left for a week--when I have a roommate, I keep the seething pit of entropy that are my belongings barricaded in my room, but the moment I have the house to myself, the second law of thermodynamics breaks out, covering every available surface with semi-folded laundry, candy bar wrappers, pagodas of dirty dishes, half-read books, and shoes.

David got me hooked on Big Love (after getting me hooked on Weeds and Flight of the Conchords), so I've been catching up with that. Viewing this is accompanied by frequent emails to a Mormon friend, all along the lines of "The characters on Big Love are doing X. Do Mormons really do X?"

[5:34:36 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Since when is mooning illegal? And how does the Secret Service issue warrants?

[5:56:48 PM] Scott says:
A. Beats me--the night sky does it all the time. B. Any way it wants.

[9:00:18 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Hmm. First adjective that comes to mind when sipping this wine: "stinky"

[9:05:56 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Should I conclude that all sauvignon blancs are stinky, or just this one?

[9:08:06 PM] Scott says:
Interesting question. Raises immense philosophical issues: how many data points does one need to conclude something about the entire category? How does one define category?

Monday, August 27, 2007


I feel compelled to blog something about my life, such as it is. Some things have happened. Let's go in reverse order.

My belly is kind of squishy lately. I had begun jogging, 3 miles a trip. But then this kind of legendary heatwave blew through, the streets turned to magma, and running became impossible. I had planned to go this evening, but the metro I was on stalled out at Arlington Cemetery and I had to ask Jay to pick me up (Jay has graciously kept himself unemployed so that he can do stuff like this for me at a moment's notice). So I just got home.

Last night I had trouble sleeping, probably because I slept in the that morning, which is in turn because I had David and Paige (my brother and his oh-so-cute girlfriend) here for the weekend.

They got down Friday, we went to see Knocked Up at the ol' Cinema n' Drafthouse--which was hilarious. We planned a trip to the zoo Saturday, but there was a heat advisory in effect and Paige was chompin' at the bit to go to Nordstrom's, so we went shopping. Each excursion outside of the condo ended with us returning drenched in sweat and needing a little nap and rehydration. We thought of activities that took place in air-conditioned environments, and settled on another movie. Jay joined us for Death at a Funeral--though we missed the show we were aiming for and so went to the White House, Borders, and then a bar while waiting for the next one.

One of the funniest movies I've ever seen.

Then we came back, ended up--of course--drinking Pinot Grigio and watching Office episodes. They left Sunday morning, I spent the day reading my book (I'm on the second of the Baroque Cycle), until Hanah, whose husband is in the Ukraine, asked me to go see Hairspray (which was also good, giving the weekend a 3 for 3 record).

But that was this weekend. Earlier in that week, Jay turned some ridiculously high age that I can't even calculate without my abacus. I bought him (very very nice) cigar called an Anniversary, which led to this exchange at the tobacconist:

ME: I'd like this one.

CLERK: Anniversary?

ME: No! It's just my friend's birthday.

CLERK: Anniversary is the name of the cigar.

Though I enjoyed the one I bought, Jay got halfway through his and turned a pale green color and started to totter back and forth.

Now, let's go back like a week and a half before that or so, when I was taking the MPRE and while signing in, looked up to see Celine, who I hadn't seen since November, when she moved back to Paris. She was taking the test too--we went for coffee afterwards and ended up spending the whole weekend together. We talked over things, reminisced fondly, smoothed some spots that were left rough, and all in all left things in a lovely place. I bought her a Ravel CD and sent her back to Paris.

If I had recorded these things at the time they happened, I'd have much more to say. I didn't, and so I don't. But things have been nice, I'd say.

Alvy Singer: [narrating] After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I... I realized what a terrific person she was, and... and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I... I, I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


[8:51:27 PM] Scott says: I'm eating an apple.

[8:53:35 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
I was going to eat some celery earlier, but apparently it goes bad pretty quickly.

[8:53:47 PM] Scott says:
Yeah, celery turns to liquid.

[8:53:56 PM] Scott says:
Or maybe that's spinach.

[8:54:06 PM] Scott says:
Anyway, we've got some kind of green liquid in our crisper.

[8:57:23 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Hmmm. Ice cream sandwich, or white wine?

[8:58:01 PM] Scott says:
Can't have one without the other.

[8:59:31 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Sounds right to me.

[9:00:12 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Think I'll watch some AD, too.

[9:00:31 PM] Scott says:
The hat trick.

[9:01:03 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:

[9:01:24 PM] Scott says:

[9:01:47 PM] Scott says:
Can you name the three triforce virtues?

[9:02:47 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:

[9:02:52 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Bros, hos, and money?

[9:03:44 PM] Scott says:
Zelda gonna give me mah rupees, or is Ganon gonna have to slap a bitch?

[9:03:51 PM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Speaking of...

SCOTT: What's a Hebrew's favorite martial art?

JACOB: I don't know.

SCOTT: Jew-jitsu.

JACOB: Not bad.

SCOTT: I would have also accepted Jew-do.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


COWORKER: (whisper) So are you... (inaudible)?

SCOTT: What?

COWORKER: Are you (inaudible)?

SCOTT: Am I a gymnast?

COWORKER: Are you Jewish?

SCOTT: Oh, Jewish! No. It's the last name, isn't it?

COWORKER: Yeah. "Scheule."

Yeah, I've had a lot of problems with that. I'm thinking of just changing it to "Schedule." For one, no more of these misunderstandings. Two, it's easier to spell. And three, it's just got a positive connotation. With a last name like Schedule, you know I'm going to be on time for things.


JAY: What is this file you're sending me?

SCOTT: It's nothing. Just start the download.

JAY: This is Flight of the Conchords, isn't it?

SCOTT: ...No.

JAY: Stop sending me this! It's not funny!

It's hilarious!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bone Soup

DAVID: I just bought this book. It's got all this stuff about how to purify water and skin animals.

SCOTT: So you're ready for the apocalypse.

DAVID: Big time. Cause when it hits, everybody's going to be in the woods. And I'll know what to do.

SCOTT: That's right. That's a human being's first instinct: world ends, head for the forest.

DAVID: Damn right!

SCOTT: Only you'll already be there. "Where are all the squirrels to eat?" they'll say. "Who has eaten all the squirrels!"

DAVID: Yes! But then, when they're looking for the squirrels, I'll be back in their houses.

SCOTT: Right.

DAVID: Because the first instinct in case of apocalypse is to head for the woods, not to head for home.

So they'll be in the woods, and you'll be helping yourself to their canned soup in their pantries.


SCOTT: Soup is better than squirrels in my opinion. There are no bones to pick out.


SCOTT: Except for Campbell's Bone Soup. But the bones are kind of the point when it comes to that one.

They've had trouble selling that one.

I know. The commercials are ridiculous. "Bone Soup! It's Mmm, Mmm... *hack* *hack*..."

DAVID: *hack* *gag*...

SCOTT: *gag!!*...

DAVID: *hack! hack!*...

*hack... gulp* ... Good.

DAVID: Crazy.

Friday, August 10, 2007


[12:20:21 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: Dad just sent me this:

[12:23:51 AM] Scott says: Dawkins tried to get around these arguments. He relied on the idea of a multiverse--which may be true, but it strikes me as pretty much as spooky as God.

[12:24:37 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Spooky, but doesn't rely on an intelligence.

[12:24:54 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says: And even in its weakest form, it shows God isn't the only explanation.

[12:25:05 AM] Scott says: Just relies on an infinite amount of universes that we have no means of perceiving.

[12:25:29 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Need they coexist? Why not serial universes?

[12:26:04 AM] Scott says:
What do you mean? A big crunch?

[12:26:25 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Sure. A series of big bangs and big crunches, each with different constants.

[12:27:17 AM] Scott says:
That's fine, but that only moves the universes to a different temporal spot--we're still being asked to believe in them without any means of perceiving them.

[12:27:29 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
I'm OK with that.

[12:27:45 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
There's a lot that we don't perceive.

[12:28:04 AM] Scott says:
Nothing wrong with it. But it's not much of an answer.

[12:28:17 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
I think it's better than "God did it."

[12:28:26 AM] Scott says:
I don't see why.

[12:28:42 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Why do you always argue this stuff when I'm going to bed? I'm too tired to think about this now.

[12:28:59 AM] Scott says:
You sent the link dude.

[12:29:09 AM] Scott says:
Plus I'm more likely to win arguments when you're tired.

[12:29:10 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Yeah. You were supposed to laugh and move on.

[12:29:20 AM] Scott says:

[12:29:22 AM] Scott says:
How about those Colts?

[12:29:30 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
Were those the blue ones?

[12:30:07 AM] Jay Goodman Tamboli says:
That was great when that one guy grabbed the ball and kept the other guy from having it. Ha!

[12:30:31 AM] Scott says:
Oh my God! I was like, is the other guy going to get it? Oh no, he is! No, wait! Oh man, he did!

I still love Orr's review:

[T]he fact that we as scientists find a hypothesis question-begging—as when Dawkins asks "who designed the designer?"—cannot, in itself, settle its truth value. It could, after all, be a brute fact of the universe that it derives from some transcendent mind, however question-begging this may seem. What explanations we find satisfying might say more about us than about the explanations. Why, for example, is Dawkins so untroubled by his own (large) assumption that both matter and the laws of nature can be viewed as given? Why isn't that question-begging?

I'm listening to Mahler's Fifth an actually enjoying it. Crap--this means I have to apologize to a bunch of people. My exact phrase may have been "romantic sludge."

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I put my blanket through the wash the other week--it's been warm and fluffy since. Sleep has become a fresh new joy.

'sabout the small things.

Friday, August 03, 2007


SCOTT: Did you ever play Chrono Trigger?


SCOTT: Remember Lavos?

JACOB: Sure.

SCOTT: Remember the Lavos Spawn?

JACOB: Think so.

SCOTT: (pointing) Look at the SunTrust logo. It's a Lavos Spawn!

JACOB: My God, you're right.

SCOTT: I noticed that six months ago and I've been trying to find someone to tell it to.

Incidentally, you can adopt your very own Lavos Spawn here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wild Week

Barbri gave us an encyclopedia of review books. I couldn't fit all of these in my duffel bag, but Monday morning I gave it a shot and got in about a half dozen--as if I was finally going to crack them open in the 24 hours before the bar exam. I took a trip to Albany, which required a stopover in Penn Station (great pizza), and tried to suck up all those little niceties of NY law on the way. At the Albany train station I remembered that I had no place to stay in Albany. So opened the laptop and googled "Albany hotel."

JAY: So when you told me you didn't have a hotel room, I thought, I should be supportive. But really, I was thinking: 'What a fucking idiot.'

SCOTT: Yeah, I know.

JAY: No, seriously. I thought, Jesus Christ, what a moron. And then I felt strangely secure, because I was suddenly sure that no matter how bad I screw up in life, you will always make me look like the responsible one.

That's enough.

JAY: You had like two months! What the hell did you think was going to happen when you went up there? Idiot! You're an idiot! Scott equals idiot!

Two hours later I found a place--apparently once a year the entirety of Albany is rented out so 4,000 law students can take the Bar exam. I ended up in a surrounding suburb named Schodak, a twenty dollar cab ride away. Schodak, so far as I can tell, consists entirely of the Roadside Inn, a Burger King, and the sign that says "Welcome to Schodak." I scored the last room at said inn, a corner affair which I was puzzled to discover had a jacuzzi shaped like a heart.

The first night was fun. Desperate to get to sleep, knowing I had a not unimportant exam in 9 hours, I kicked off early. Turned out the honeymoon suite AC didn't work. Luckily, there was a window. Luckily, it had a screen. Unfortunately, the screen had a big gash in it, and, also problematic, Schodak turned out to be where mosquitoes spend the summer.

Throughout the evening, I opened and closed the window, trying to decide whether the bloodsuckers or the sweltering heat was worse. Inspiration struck! I had a refrigerator, and it was significantly larger than my head. I yanked out the grills, threw in my pillow, pulled the bedspreads onto the floor--I slept in the fridge.

After twenty minutes or so, it started to chug and whine. Take that, Roadside Inn. Also, the next morning I sat waiting for the taxi clutching my Exam Ticket in a vice-grip--somehow I managed to lose it on the way to the Albany Law School. No problem. What was a problem was the phenomenally beautiful girl taking the exam in the same classroom as me--yet somehow I managed to concentrate on the exam most of the time.

Anywho, a pack of cigarettes, a bunch of coffee, alcohol, and six conversations with cabbies later, I was on a train back home. Picked up the new Harry Potter book in Penn Station and instantly lost myself in it. Got back to DC around 5--and Jay and I drank a bunch and went to see DIE HARD.

The next day, I had a 6 AM flight out to Chicago. I missed that--who could have known? (I was up late into the evening reading about Voldemort and the gang--incidentally, I have for quite some time associated the Mason family with the Weasleys. My mental image of Molly Weasley has and always will be none other than Denise Mason). Bumped to a later flight, took that, and got into Chicago at 10 AM CST. I probably should have left immediately, but I ended up sitting in the baggage claim for two hours reading the Rowling book--finished... cried a bit, you know... then rented my first car ever, and sped in the direction of Racine, WI.

This being me, I got lost a lot, but finally managed to find the hotel, pick up Joey, get to the rehearsal just in time to learn how to be a groomsman, again.

You know how weddings go. A day later, Nick was married, we were all dancing in a room in the Marriot--actually, only the Masons and friends were dancing; the bride's side sat and eyed us suspiciously. The wedding party sat up front on the dais, and the bartender said we alone were entitled to free alcohol, which I can only suppose was an attempt to make us nice and amusing for all the folks watching us.

We didn't disappoint. I don't remember what I said, but I do recall making Megan laugh until she spit a cloud of champagne in my hair.

Lots of fun, lots of tears, so much caring.

And I love you all so much.

After the fourth Scotch, I agreed to drive some other groomsmen down to Chicago for the evening and to the airport at five in the morning. After we were all sobered up, say about 1, we headed down to Chicago.

Got back to DC at noon. I slept 16 hours. I've been cleaning all day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dear Nick

I'm leaving on a 6 AM flight tomorrow, God willing, to go be a groomsman for Nick.

I'm sweet.


"Not being married, or ever having attempted to marry anyone, I have absolutely no sympathy or compassion for all the work it takes to get married. I'm leaving on a plane at 6 AM tomorrow--that's the plan at least, but who knows what I'll think when the alarm goes off at 4 AM. I may just decide that I don't really care about Nick that much--I mean, now I care about him, but 4 AM Scott doesn't give a fuck about anyone. 4 AM Scott would dropkick a kitten to get to the Snooze button.

"As to my title, you can all continue to call me Scott, so long as you attach "Esquire" to the end of that."


Sunday, July 22, 2007


[18:11] Dagny02: good luck

[18:35] Remy Boncouer:
For what?

[18:35] Dagny02:
bar exam?

[18:36] Remy Boncouer:
Oh yeah. When is that?

[18:36] Dagny02:
Jay says it's on Tuesday

[18:36] Remy Boncouer:
THIS Tuesday?

[18:36] Remy Boncouer:
*falls out of his chair*

[18:36] Dagny02:
I hope you're joking

[18:37] Dagny02:
Don't you have to go take it in New York?

[18:37] Dagny02:
maybe your dates are different

[18:37] Remy Boncouer:
I hope I don't have to go all the way to NY.

[18:38] Dagny02:
good lord, if you are this not on top of things, there is no helping you.

[18:38] Remy Boncouer:
Hold on, another quarter stuck in my nose.

[18:40] Remy Boncouer:
Yeah, I'm taking the 10AM train to Albany tomorrow. Just like that Gladys Knight song.

[18:40] Dagny02:
why Albany?

[18:40] Remy Boncouer: It's the state capital of the state!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

On Goedel

Jacob says Goedel, Escher, Bach convinced him of a reductionist view of the universe. The book is beautiful, but that's not what I got out of it. I was skimming Hofstadter's I am a Strange Loop: he complained that nobody seemed to get what he said in GEB, which I take it is something about consciousness.

I admit, I missed that too. I found the book a clever exposition (with frequent divergences) of the Goedel proof. But so far as consciousness being a mirage, which is Hofstadter's view--I missed the argument. This, incidentally, reminds me a lot of what I've read of Dennett: he tends to refer to some powerful argument he's made, but when I go back and read what he's written, I don't see it.

I don't see it with Hofstadter either. I understand why a materialist view of the universe would compel thinking consciousness was either a hallucination, as with Hofstadter, or simply doesn't exist, with Dennett, but so much the worse for materialism, eh? Either way--nothing about Goedel seems to imply materialism. After Lucas and Penrose, the opposite seems the obvious conclusion--though I'm not sure that argument works.

But Goedel isn't even necessary to disprove materialism. Even if you want to be a thoroughgoing materialist, you've got to come up with your own web of axioms to validate the data you receive. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but supposing you believe your materialism to be true, you need some kind of means to call those axioms you've picked true. But you can't appeal to your beginning axioms to prove themselves (but this starts to sound Goedelian all over again, doesn't it?).

You have a fork here. You either submit to some kind of radical skepticism where you admit the impossibility of knowledge, or you appeal to some notion of reasonableness, some means with which you identify the true axioms.

But what is reasonableness? It's not material. It floats.

I talked to an absolutely gorgeous girl today. Inspiring.

Attraction: Mechanics

JACOB: That girl really seemed to like you.

SCOTT: Well, when you've got a face like this, you don't have to work too hard.

JACOB: No, that can't be it. You're kind of weird looking. Maybe you've got a great personality.

SCOTT: That can't be it either. Many reliable sources have told me I don't have much in the way of personality.

JACOB: Hmm. Maybe she was drunk.

SCOTT: Yeah, she must have been drunk.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sketches: Matchpoint v. Crimes and Misdemeanors

Crimes and Misdemeanors was one of my favorite Allen movies from the first time I saw it. But I didn't realize until watching Crimes again how much of Matchpoint was lifted nearly directly from it: the love affair, the murder (set to classical music in both, no less: in Matchpoint opera, in Crimes Schubert), the killer overcoming and ultimately forgetting his guilt. Allen wrote the same movie twice.

It's a hard call which is the superior film. Crimes clumsily smashes its viewers over the head with its message early on: a discussion between the Rabbi and the atheistic protagonist over the existence of God and good in the universe. This obvious stroke spoils the subtler symbolism of the same Rabbi eventually going blind (though this isn't exactly deep--thus it certainly requires no highlighting). But Matchpoint isn't exactly subdued in its message either--the opening monologue by the protagonist brings the "Life is luck" message to the fore. Soon thereafter we see him reading Dostoevsky.

We get it.

Still, it's somewhat more forgivable in Matchpoint, since the philosophical question of crime and punishment seems somewhat intrinsic to Chris's character, whereas Judah never really convinces us he's the nihilist he pretends to be. We sense the deep unease of Chris--if not over the wrong he's done, over the tragedy of him getting away with it.

But Crimes has comedy where Matchpoint doesn't, and a truly sublime conclusion as the two protagonists facing their own unjust plots happen upon one another's stories, uniting for the first time. We almost forgive it its foibles for this masterstroke. Still, ultimately, Matchpoint is the better film--more mature, more stylish, less fluff. More Johansson.

But finishing both, we have to wonder: just what do you want from the universe, Woody?

Allen counters Dostoevsky and the religious: the universe is unjust no matter what they say, and so he gives us blatant thieves and murderers--and let's them win. He tantalizes us with the possibility of all coming right, and then yanks it from us.

Real life is like this. It's not Hollywood, as Judah points out.

But, I always conclude, so what? There is no cosmic justice--the scales will not balance at the end of the day. Bad men escape, good men go blind, nice guys finish last.

What is the alternative? What does Allen want?

He wishes God to reach down, and with the force of a miracle, see that justice is done. And the atheist frequently questions why a good God allows so much pain. Nothing but karma will satisfy Allen.

But it needn't be so--indeed, it shouldn't be. It is only the possibility of failure that gives us any worth whatsoever in this world. If the guilty were always to be hanged, if God would do it when we failed to, then there's nothing left for us to do, no import to our actions. We are absolved of responsibility if the universe will guaranty our debts. Without pain, why bother?

No. We need not rue the imperfection of life, of justice: rather, we should be grateful for the chance we get to do justice, to bring about the better outcome, to make a difference. To sense wrong and be distressed by its existence. If I punish a murderer, the action is a good and just one, and it is to my credit--if some cosmic miracle would inevitably have punished him if I did not, then my action would be for naught.

Fear drives us to this. It infects us so deeply that we're willing to dream up some perfect arbiter, someone who will fix the world if we can't. If we can't be happy in this life, then we dream up the falsehood that it doesn't matter--for after death, bliss is waiting. We would let our cowardice negate our only chance for value.

(Do the religious believe such a thing? Perhaps not. God will judge the quick and the dead--not everyone enters Heaven. Still, the infinity of God's ability to forgive leaves us with very little that we may claim as morally important. Of what harm is sin if absolution is so easy to obtain?)