November 28, 2004

The Incredibles

Kip Manley has some interesting stuff up about the politics of The Incredibles. Well, we don't spoil our enjoyment of culture worrying about political correctness, do we? No. So, it's very entertaining, I wouldn't say great of all time or anything, and I think I would be leery of taking a kid, but anyway the closing credits rock and you should stay through them. OK, let's go.

[The rest of this post consists entirely of spoilers.]

Kip rebuts the view that the movie is Randian--the fact that some people are superheroes is just part of the genre, he points out, and the Incredibles don't exactly act in a Randian way. True, true. And capitalism is specifically dishonored as something that crushes the independent spirit who just wants to help people till he's just a cog in the wheel.

But I think there is something cod-Nietzschean about it. Kip says that Syndrome has super powers, being the mad inventor. But he doesn't have powers--he's just smart. And the movie leans heavily on this difference--eventually Syndrome wants to make sure everyone has his inventions, so no one will be special (which Kip quotes as counterevidence to his view, to be fair).

So what we have is your basic story of the smart taking revenge on the strong--the Superheroes are not very bright--because they resent (what's the verb form of ressentiment?) the strong's power(s). In the movie there's a bit of the hurt feelings of not being allowed to join the strong yourselves, but that doesn't fit the pattern too badly. And Syndrome wants to exalt himself--but isn't that what the slaves really want to do when they declare themselves good?

Anyway, having thought of this during the movie (my mind's warped, OK? And I'd read Kip's post already), I was quite amused when the last villain turned out to be Untermensch. Well, Underminer, who looks like a pig. Still.

And Kip is right to point out all the ways in which The Incredibles differs from this Nietzschean story. (The nobles never went around saving everyone else from stuff.) I sure wouldn't want to claim that this is in any way a Nietzschean allegory. (A classmate of mine thought Revenge of the Nerds was, but I haven't seen it so can't comment.) And of course my story doesn't even capture much of Nietzsche--there's the whole story about how the slave revolt is what makes humanity interesting. The Nietzschean stuff just gets at a bit of the archetypal undercurrent to the whole movie, maybe.

(And to why I wouldn't maybe take a kid--the body count is, as Kip says, distressing. Especially the comic montage of cape-related fatal mishaps--cool in Triplets of Belleville, maybe, not so much here. Though the designer is brilliant. Anyway, stay for the credits.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:47 PM | Comments (2)

November 23, 2004

No Ligeti

This should probably go under the previous entry, but the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is playing Ligeti's "Atmospheres" this weekend, along with Strauss's "Also sprach Zarathustra," Martinsson's Trumpet Concerto No. 1, and Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3. It looks like an interesting modernist symphony program, but I will miss it.

("Ligeti" seems to be accented on the first syllable.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:24 AM | Comments (7)

November 22, 2004

Entries I'll Never Write

I am hoping to write a couple of philosophical entries soon, but I have other things to do before Thanksgiving. So I'll just link to this excellent Journal-Sentinel editorial on teaching evolution and creationism, and then mention this:

As you may have gathered, one of my primary purposes in running this weblog is to think up ridiculous puns for the post titles. Unfortunately, I have thought up some ridiculous puns that lack entries--either because the entries would require discussing philosophical issues on which I haven't thought of anything to say right now, or because they would require linking to news articles reporting events that haven't taken place. Rather than sit around rooting for those events to take place--which is a really ridiculous thing to do--I've decided to list the titles and the entries that would bear them. Some of the jokes are pretty awful, so I'm putting it in the extended entry.

As I say, I'm hoping to put up some real philosophy sometime.

1. A discussion of Anselm and Gaunilo on the ontological argument: "I Pity the Fool"

2. On tasks that comprise an infinite number of subtasks: "Supertasks Last All Summer Long" (recycled from Shieva Kleinschmidt's comments)

3. On a study about poetry therapy as an alternative to ADHD medication: "I Don't Rhyme for the Sake of Ritalin"

4. Attempts to repeal the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act: "The End of FERPA in the World"

5. My obtaining a lot of male cats while still resident in this city: "I'm from Milwaukee and You're from New Berlin, I Got a Lot of Kitties and None of Them Is Girlin'"

All of these titles allude to something that exists outside of my head, I promise. [UPDATE: Maybe. #5 conflates two different Beastie Boys rhymes.]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:25 PM | Comments (3)

Public Service Announcement

The latest JFP alert that the APA sent out contains a link to the wrong page. (It linked the Vol. 163 online listings rather the Vol. 164 online listings.) The right page is here. (You'll have to go through the login screen.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2004


I sometimes kick around the idea that in Davidson's famous analysis of indirect speech, we should replace the notion of samesaying with the notion of likesaying. That is, "X said that P" will be analyzed as "X said something that is like what I would say by the following: P."

There are a couple of motivations for this, but most prominent is the idea that our evaluations of indirect discourse reports aren't all or nothing. Take Cappelen and LePore's example (approximately): Joe says "At 11 pm I put on a green shirt, black pants, and blue shoes"; we, knowing that before 11 pm Joe was standing naked in front of an uncurtained window, say "Joe said that at 11 pm he stopped exposing himself to his neighbors."

Is what we say an accurate representation of what Joe says? I think the appropriate reaction is that it's somewhat accurate--accurate for some purposes and not for others. For instance, it wouldn't be accurate if our audience wanted to know whether Joe admitted that he had been exposing himself. And the reason for this, I think, is that when we say "At 11 pm he stopped exposing himself to his neighbors" what we say is in one respect like what Joe said when he said "At 11 pm I put on a green shirt, black pants, and blue shoes," but in another respect it's not like it. Whether the discourse report is acceptable depends in part on how close a likeness is demanded, and what kind.

(Howard Wettstein makes some similar points about how judgments on discourse reports aren't all or nothing in The Magic Prism; at least I remember them as similar. All mistakes mine, as usual.)

If this idea survives to the writing-up stage, I'm planning to ostentatiously refrain from citing as the use of "like" to introduce speech reports in support of it. But if we really want to know how the use of "like" as in "I'm like, no way" is like other uses of "like," it seems like there's a lot of actual linguistic research that seems liek it would be relevant. One, two, three relevant posts at Language Log. None of these, I think, deal with the use of "like" to introduce indirect discourse in Pogo-American (no attempt has been made to reproduce the original emphases):

Aug. 4, 1950: Owl: I jes' been chewin' up a watermelon an' got seeds in both ears---so I thought you say Albert swallied a butterfly---now, what is you did actual say, Pogo?

Pogo: I says again like I say before which was what you thought I said and I did.


Dec. 7, 1949--Albert the alligator and Uncle Antler the moose are staring eyeball to eyeball.

Antler: Jes' who's called me a cow, anyways, mister overgrown hoppy-toad?
Albert: I will tell you when you tell me who callin' me a overgrowed hoppy-toad what call a moo-cow like you a ol' hat-rack.
Antler: And I will tell you whom am I when you tell me who calls me all like you said but not 'fore you tells me who calls me what you say first is I who calls you what I said you be who calls me what you say last only I'm that way at you an' double do it!
[Silent panel.]
Albert [nonchalantly leaning against Antler and puffing his cigar]: I dare you--- jes--- say--- that--- a--- gain!

(And yes, the whole post was intended as a pretext for extended Pogo quotes rather than to put forth a serious philosophical thesis. That seems like a good use of this blog to me.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:11 AM | Comments (4)

November 18, 2004


Tonight at the Woodland Pattern there's an experimental film program that includes Robert Smithson's film Spiral Jetty, which is the closest I'm ever likely to get to the damn thing. At the Peck School of the Arts there's an electronic music concert featuring "digital music and visual media works by James Paul Sain, Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gi Nyong Lee and Arie Shapira," though it doesn't say which works. Time to leave the office.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 04:20 PM | Comments (1)

November 17, 2004

Where are the internalist incompatibilsts?

One of the grad students here asked me if there were any philosophers who are incompatibilist about free will and internalist about epistemic justification. I suggested Descartes but he was hoping for someone more recent. Any nominations?

Posted by Matt Weiner at 04:12 PM | Comments (3)

November 14, 2004

This isn't trash talk

The NFC North seems to have attained maximum parity, with two teams at 5-4 and two teams at 4-5; every team now has a streak of at least three games. Gregg Easterbrook will be happy that Chicago became the second team in NFL history to win by scoring a safety in overtime. I think the sudden-death overtime rule is ridiculous, but a team that gives up a safety in OT--as well as an interception returned for a TD, when 29 seconds were left in the half and the opponent had negative passing yards--doesn't deserve another chance. OK, maybe that was a little trashy.

(There should be a post here about Tyler Burge's paper on Computer Proof and how some of the things I find puzzling in it might be dealt with by a proper understanding of Paul Faulkner's hybrid view of testimony, or anyway an understanding of what Faulkner should have said. But I'm still a bit too puzzled.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 05:53 PM | Comments (2)

November 13, 2004

Layover Country

You've probably heard of "flyover country," defined as the parts of America that people from the coasts fly over on the way to the other coast.* But I've discovered a new bogus sociological category: Layover Country. These are the places that your plane lays over on the way from somewhere to somewhere else. It includes rapidly growing Sunbelt cities such as Houston, Phoenix, and Atlanta, as well as non-coastal oldstyle cities such as Chicago and, um, Newark. Great sociological hay can no doubt be made of Pittsburgh's slipping off the edge of Layover Country with the recent troubles of USAir. The possibilities are endless!

Note to David Brooks' agent: I get 50% of the royalties on this one.

*According to word spy, it's pejorative, but most of the most prominent uses seem to be from non-coasters attacking the attitudes of alleged East Coast elites--including Word Spy's own example citation. Maybe the Interweb only picks up defiant uses of the phrase, while those East Coast elites use it pejoratively in their secret East Coast elite hideouts where we can't hear them.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2004

Blaustein with a Linguistic Baedeker

At Language Log, Arnold Zwicky catches one David Blaustein describing an author (Keith Banner) as awash in the "curious grammar" of Ohio when all Banner is doing is using working-class and colloquial speech that's not particularly regional at all. Zwicky has an interesting theory to account for this. My only contribution (aside from the post title) is to confirm Zwicky's statement that the bits of Ohio dialect that Banner doesn't use are found outside of Ohio.

The two things that the American Dialect Society cites are want/need + past participle ("This shirt needs washed") and positive "anymore" ("Gas is really expensive anymore"). The first one is the second thing that anyone will cite when discussing Pittsburghese, after "yinz" as second person plural, and positive "anymore" is also quite common.

(Incidentally, the reason "This shirt needs washed" is frequently cited as an example of this construction is that "wash" is pronounced "worshed" in Pittsburghese--leading me to think it's probably also pronounced the same way in the South/Eastern Ohio dialect the ADS folk cited.)

Elsewhere at LL, Mark Liberman cites James McGreevey's use of "the courage to be open about whom I was." Liberman thinks that in this construction "whom" is being treated as the object of "about" but I'm not so sure. "Whom I was" construction is used in place of "who I was" seemingly regardless of what came before. In particular, in

I lost the person whom I was and the more time goes by, the more I believe that the person I was is lost to me forever now

there's nothing for "whom" to be the object of. So I think the occasional substitution of "whom I was" for "who I was" might be symptomatic of overall confusion about use of "whom" rather than anything so orderly as treating "whom" as an object of a nearby thing that takes objects.

(Incidentally, if you use the common rule of substituting "she" for "who" and "her" for "whom" and seeing which sounds better, you should say "whom I was." No one says "It was I.")

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:45 PM | Comments (4)

RIP Robert Paul Warns

Sad news for Veterans' Day as UWM student Robert Paul Warns is reported killed in Iraq.

Condolences to his family and friends; I'm sure the whole UWM community feels the same way.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:19 AM | Comments (1)

November 09, 2004


I'm going to declare a unilateral moratorium on football-related trash-talking on this site, for the following reasons:

(a) It's unseemly
(b) I don't want anyone to get annoyed
(c) It is very likely that the Steelers will lose at some point this season, and I really don't want everyone coming around to gloat
(d) It would kind of be karmic payback for that to happen next week--after the Steelers broke streaks for the Patriots and Eagles, will Ben Roethlisberger have his own chance at breaking a record denied?
(e) That record would be most consecutive wins by a starting QB to open a career (since the NFL-AFL merger)
(f) I swear that (d) wasn't meant just to remind you again that the Steelers just broke streaks for the Patriots and Eagles
(g) (f) was, though
(h) Anyway, for some godawful reason the Steelers often have trouble winning in Cleveland
(i) But what's most important is that I go out on top--with respect to the Steelers' current ranking, no one can accuse me of jumping off the bandwagon when it starts to slow down
(j) With respect to similes like pound like British currency, it's probably more important that I go out on the bottom while we still know where the bottom is
(k) And isn't this the best way of promoting peace love and understanding?

Exceptions will always be made for Norbizness. Those predictions aren't looking much better than this one, are they, Astro-boy?

(Football-related philosophizing will continue.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:18 AM | Comments (2)

Fametracker, Again

I know you already read Fametracker religiously, but I liked the punchline to this one.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2004

Peter Brotzmann Tentet in Milwaukee Monday

The Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet is playing Mon. Nov. 8, at 8 pm, at the Milwaukee School of Engineering's Todd Wehr Conference Center. Tickets are $10 (I think). The concert will be recorded.

The tentet includes Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark, and Mats Gustafsson; Joe McPhee and Toshinori Kondo on trumpets; Jeb Bishop on trombone; Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello; Kent Kessler on bass; and Michael Zerang and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. (Personnel taken from McPhee's website; I have no affiliation with anyone putting on this show.)

It should be a great show--the Tentet performance I've seen was absolutely overwhelming. Here's a review of another show from that tour.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)

Rooting For Evidence

While watching a bunch of NFL games at once, I had this thought:

Suppose that your only interest in the NFL is that team X be successful as possible. Teams Y and Z are playing, midway through the season. The outcome of this game will not have any effect on team X's fortunes (we can assume that Teams Y and Z are both unlikely to compete for playoff spots*); team X beat Y earlier in the season, and team X will not play team Z.

Does it make sense to root for team Y?

Here's the argument for so rooting: You want X to be as successful as possible. The better X is, the more successful they will be (most likely). The better Y is, the more evidence X's previous victory provides that X is good. So if Y beats Z, you have more evidence that your goal will be achieved.

The argument against rooting for Y is basically this: What happens between Y and Z has no effect on X's fortunes. All you care about is X's fortunes. So why should you care what happens between Y and Z?

This seems to have some resemblance to Newcomb's paradox, but it's not quite the same. Even I, the one-boxer**, think that you have no reason to cause team Y to win should that be in your power. But when you're rooting, you're not making any decisions--even when you root for team X itself, it doesn't make any difference to team X's fortunes. (Certainly if you do so from a sports bar in the basement of the UWM student union.) And if rooting ever makes sense, it makes sense to root for team X.

Nevertheless, rooting isn't just wishing that something were the case. If that were so, you could root for the past to be different--and that seems to me clearly absurd.

Perhaps rooting is much like hoping--but I think the same case arises for hoping. It makes sense to hope for something that is a downstream effect of something you want to have happened--if the lottery has been drawn but not announced, I should hope that my ticket is announced. Does that transfer over to rooting for team Y? I'm not sure.

You might say that your problem is essentially epistemic, and the best way for that epistemic problem to be solved would be for team X, for the second week in a row, to pound a theretofore undefeated team like British currency.*** In this you would probably be right.

*We could assume that teams Y and Z are in the other conference from team X, but as NFL schedules are currently constituted this is inconsistent with the rest of the setup--if Y and Z are in the other conference from X, then X plays Y during the regular season iff X plays Z during the regular season.

**I'm not a one-boxer who subscribes to evidential decision theory; my position is that you should (if you think it at all likely that you'll find yourself in a Newcomb situation) form the intention to one-box, and that it is rational to follow through on such intentions. Nothing like that comes up in the rooting case. I suppose that an evidential decision theorist would find rooting for Y unproblematic; she would think that you shouldn't rig the game for Y (if that be in your power) because then Y's victory would provide no evidence of X's future success.

***No punts! No third-down conversions allowed! 41:49 time of possession! Yoi!

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:10 PM | Comments (5)

Completely Random Thought

The spam subject headings "The pain is killing your daughter"/"The pain is killing your father"/etc. that I get remind me of the spirituals that use a different family member for each spiritual, such as Beulah Land

I got a mother in Beaulah land, out shine the sun I got a mother in Beaulah land, out shine the sun I got a mother in Beaulah land, out shine the sun Way beyond the sky [sister/father]

(I was convinced that He's a Mighty Good Leader used the same device, but these transcriptions include "mother" only, and my Skip James CD is at home. I guess when I heard "mother" my memory filled in the other family members.

[UPDATE: No, my memory was right; James really does sing "he led my mother/he led my father/ he led my sister" in subsequent verses. But on the Interweb all you can find is the version of the lyrics that Beck sings. It's Penny's Farm and Natalie Merchant all over again. Stupid Interweb.]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2004

80s Flashback

If, when I was in high school, you'd told me that almost 20 years later I'd be waiting in the freezing rain to hear Jon Bon Jovi play, I wouldn't have believed you at all.

Listening the PA before anyone came on, I realized that I've seriously underestimated Twisted Sister. I think I might make my substitution Dee Snider for Robert Plant. (This says more about my physiological reaction to Plant than it does about anything else.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:49 PM | Comments (0)