At least I'm helping a colleague on a proposal to use the doomed, Doomed, DOOMED Hubble Space Telescope to investigate the brightest of a class of X-ray binaries called the "Z-sources", so called because they trace out a "Z" shape, for only theorized reasons, in a "color-color diagram" that's sort of like a Hertzprung-Russell diagram, but in X-rays. And they have mysterious unstable oscillations up to 1,000 times a second.
So these are some spoils of my daily joy ride down the information superhighway:
It appears as if Kerry and Edwards are coming out, in favor of civil unions. Future (running) mates?
Michael Kinsley in that virtual rag, Slate:
When the government is running a deficit of half a trillion dollars a year, a tax cut isn't giving folks their own money back. It is borrowing money to pass out, until it has to be paid back.
This Salon review of a book about Gnosticism annoyed me. The topic seemed interesting, and I'd like to learn more about the Gnostics. They seem to have believed that the God of our world is evil, responsible for what's wrong with the world, but that hidden away at a higher level was the real God. William Blake seems to have had a similar theology. What annoyed me about the review--although I am unfamiliar with the subject and haven't seen the book reviewed--was that it seemed very centered on our own time, and on the beliefs of our day. It was fixated on the book getting to the sexy parts. You know, one of those reviewers who wears her pubes on her sleeve (see for example the "elbow sex" scenes in The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Annoyed by the academic writing, with footnotes, the reviewer seemed to require that the book be a carnival ride. However, very few people can be relentlessly hip about academic subjects; David Foster Wallace is one of the few people who carries it off in his own mind. In particular, questions like "were the Gnostics feminist?" annoyed me, because they didn't try to get a feeling for the times Gnostic ideology flourished. It seems to me that what we think of as feminism is a reaction to specific roles and ideologies that came before. Was Athens democratic? Yes, for citizens. Of course an ancient theology is going to seem paradoxical like that. "Gnostic" is a label that is attached to 15 centuries of thought, so inconsistencies will be huge.
I've also been thinking about why I lost a recent LJ friend (of course free disassociation should be allowed without an inherent fuss.) I'm not sure why this happened, but I do have a tendency for satire and irony, and I often don't spell out when I'm not being serious, or what my purpose is in not saying what I literally believe. I suppose some of you like me more for this playful but ambiguous habit. I shouldn't be all peer pressured and aim to please anyone though, friends who stay or those who don't. I should be open to self-examination and re-thinking.
On the good side of satire is someone like Swift writing A Modest Proposal. It should be pretty transparent that Jonathan Swift didn't think poverty would be best solved by munching on babies. I don't follow rap music so closely, but perhaps there is a place to look for people who get in trouble with words--I imagine some starting out ironic, exaggerating, and finding that the only protest they are making is a token side-swipe of irony.
Writing is so many things. I suppose in the end I don't think it relates to morality. It's mysterious though, what it reveals and doesn't--does the writer know best the meaning of the words, or is the writer blinded by lack of distance? How important is it to clear away words that could hurt--if "misinterpreted"--and how important is catharsis, jokingly thrashing out words (which they say can never hurt, although sticks and stones break bones) to release them, conjure them up and laugh at just how stupid evil is? Does anyone think I want to be Rasputin and shtup Heather Graham (who I have never even had a dinner date with), and that I scorn right handed women as female dogs and prostitutes? You might as well think my revenge against Osama bin Laden would be a mere kick to the tuchus and denial of my home-cooked spanakopita. Perhaps the humor is in the unexpectedness, and you have to know what I really do consider an appropriate reaction.
So anyway, yesterday I went to a poetry slam. My housemate was MC. I know you only read this to read about my dancing escapades. After the poetry reading I went dancing--not my usual night, but I've decided I need exercise two nights a week (though dancing late sets off my sleep cycle! catch-22 yet again!) This was goth night, or "Crypt". I think these black clad weirdos are better dancers than the multiclad weirdos of Saturday Night ('80s music), when I usually dance. And there were many songs I felt kind of lost dancing to; looking to people around me only confused me. Some songs were from a genre I think of as Konstipaschorn, a kind of industrial slow beat with some strangled Germanic vocals over it--I feel so bad for these vocalists and just want to give them some X-Lax! Actually, this may be the genre that techstep plays over the radio. But I did eventually hit my stride, formal shoes notwithstanding. Started out goofy, but settled down a bit. Best part of the evening: the DJ played "I'm a Vampire" by Future Bible Heroes. The DJ is in fact the keyboardist for this band. Not many people were on the dance floor, so I danced right beneath the DJ's booth, making a kind of tribute to him. (I suspect I annoy him, when he can see me, by a lack of strict beat--he's a musical pro after all.) But I danced energetically and entertainingly ("I can turn into a bat"--and I did the hand-shadow for a flying eagle; when the song emphasized keyboards, I pretended to play), subtly bowing to the DJ booth as the song reached its conclusion.