Empty Days

Saturday, February 07, 2004



Some gut honesty from an exhausted politico blogger:
However, I didn't tell D. that the other reason I ended this blog was that it was slowly and surely driving me crazy. Reading the newspapers closely every day is a sure recipe for a quick trip to the rubber room, if you ask me. And not having to read them in order to comment on... well, anything, has made yours truly feel much lighter.

However, there can't be too much harm in writing a much less concentrated blog. So instead of pulling this thing down, we will do our jumping jacks here occasionally. It can't do any harm.
Jesus I love it when people say it as it is. Should do it more often myself :-0




Was reading through some blog and found this wonderfully smug statement:
In all the years of my life, I have done many things I am shamed by, and I do not consider myself above other human beings. In fact, the whole notion that I am "better" than most other people is rather repulsive to me.
"Repulsive, indeed, but I still feel that way."

I won't identify the author because it's really a very common little trick people constantly play on themselves and don't even know it (that would certainly include me). It's not a rhetorical trick though - I really believe my own words when I get to say this sort of thing.




Played around with news aggregators (that RSS thing again). Well, what do you know - I can't really install one because I won't be able to run it together with everything else. And most importantly - why would I bother since most of the blogs on my list are not even RSS capable?

So in the end I decided to stay with Blogmatrix for the time being, since they seem to have most of the feeds I read. It's damn slow (except at 3am in the morning), but seeing that it runs from somebody's puter in the basement I can't really complain.

***

All this tech talk is as good as sports in terms of distraction. Heh.




AOL wars

Uninstalled AOL, installed 98lite to decouple IE from windows explorer, uninstalled win's IE 5.0, upgraded to IE 5.5, installed RamBooster, reinstalled AOL from a different cd - no freezes or crashes since but I am careful about not opening too many windows in Opera (because it's tab-browsing there's always a temptation to open too many pages, but it does affect win resources all the same, and with the AOL monster running, the whole thing finally goes dead).

RamBooster is the key to all this improvement - *most* window progs have significant memory leaks and even after you've closed everything you have to reboot to clear the fat they leave behind. With RamBooster there's no more need to reboot anymore.

***

I am not really computer savvy, and I don't want to find out too many things about Windows, and I am not a Linux-alias-Opera fanatic, but I decidedly do not like big fat things - maybe because I can't afford a fat system to match.

A few words on Linux. The biggest problem with this supposedly great OS is that it requires tremendous re-learning of all your notions about how an OS works. Which is too much of a challenge for a non-geek (or wannabe) user. If there is something you don't understand and make a wrong move, it will crash on you and leave you alone with your thoughts.
And it also requires some serious hardware knowledge because with all the no-name crap on the low-end market, all the no-name-drivers are made for Windows and never for Linux. So if you are stuck with a crappy pile of hardware, there's a good chance you won't be able to install any linux distribution on it. So really, you have to love puters dearly to bother with the Penguin.

A few words about Opera fanatics. There isn't much to say except that these people are severely obsessed with a piece of software. Sensible surfers have been switching to Mozilla recently - but since I haven't tried it yet, I don't know if it's really better or maybe just flashier in color. I've stopped worrying about browser wars ever since Opera 6.05 - which is still my preferred version because it has a good email client, is much lighter than all the later upgrades, and has good encoding capabilities (if you're not Japanese, let's say). And most importantly - I know how it works. So when it crashes I know what is wrong and how to fix it. The key for me, for I am a through-and-through low tech user, is lightness and speed.

***

I am really loving BlogBuddy despite all the lack of features - colorful wbloggar will remain as a backup app.




There's a case to be made for reinventing oneself in different languages. I've noticed that there's a slight change in personality when I switch from one language to another. This is probably due to the impact of conventional styles of speech that form a language - you might work out your own, but it will be based on the totality of pre-existing styles and these are strictly limited to the language.

I know for a fact that it is entirely impossible to import styles of speech from one language to another. I thought of this the other day when I happened to hear some French rap played on tv - it sounds like black rap, but the style of speech is French. And the music/rhythm/form can't override this entirely.

This is probably connected to what I said the other day about soupy film music layed over sex-scenes. Also, a white girl "talking black" in a tv series starring Whoopy Goldberg - hilarious.




I wonder if it's feasible to learn a language just from reading texts on the internet - and using online translation utilities. People do learn to speak "from the ear", by being forced to interact and understand. Perhaps reading is not interactive enough, so the learning must be slower - but it should be possible.

If you know the abc of a language, basically the next step is to take it on and learn to swim right in the midst of it.

***

There was a time when I could neither read nor understand spoken English. My first eng book was a paperback of Plato's shorter dialogues, which I knew already and the language was simple enough. I still have the book - at least one word per paragraph is underlined ("since", "saw" and such).

It took another 5 years before I was able to use "though" correctly. And it took even longer before I could actually speak the language with some fluency. The accent will stay though :)




Petrov Vodkin, The Red HorseRed Horse
Petrov-Vodkin




Despicable mood today. Trapped. How many times in my life have I been in this particular ditch? Too many to count.

Screenshots: sitting in a cafe in NYC, on a bench in Berlin, taking the train somewhere in Russia or Europe, walking down the steet of some New England town, everywhere and always, the same feeling - trapped.

How long must I endure this? The whole wide world nothing but one vast desert - omnia mea mecum porto.

There was a point when I finally let go of hope of ever breaking down the wall between me and humanity. It didn't happen suddenly - it took years, actually. Countless moments of despair, like drops of water, digging a hole.

Can I honestly tell myself that these are nothing but "passing moments"? That it's only a matter of toughing it out? When it's the only reality I've ever known - the most basic, the most impregnable reality. What is there to "endure" and what am I waiting for - what paltry miracle?

***

It seems to me that it's not waiting that keeps me, it's this fucking compassion. When I think of all the tortures my family had to endure in this life, I can't picture myself adding a bloody corpse in the bathtub to that picture - this would be murder, murder, murder.

Perhaps it is murder I long for.

***

Walked in deep snow yesterday. Knee-deep. It was wonderful. The beauty and the joy of life are not worth living for. Nothing is, in fact.

***

Compassion or fear, fear or compassion. I wish for my old folks to pass away soon - so I may have my freedom, the cold freedom to do as I please.

I have a kind heart. And I am exceedingly cruel. This is what pity is made of.

Perhaps I should throw it out the window.

***

Next thing to do: take all the books off the bookshelves and put them in boxes. Store the boxes in the kitchen. Wait a few months to see how it feels not to reach for books. If it feels right, throw out the bookshelves. Then take a taxi and ditch the boxes at some bookshop.

General guidelines: throw out everything down to kitchenware. Sort out the wardrobe and drop most of it at the Salvation Army. Terminate my lease.

Undecided details: give away computer, tv, cat - or leave it to my folks? Probably the latter.

***

This is about 5 minutes away from "truth and nothing but the truth". Still, it's not close enough yet.




Flipping through the channels, caught The Milky Way (a film by Luis Bunuel) which was really hilarious and not only that. If you've ever seen a film by Bunuel you know how it is. There is also an embedded episode starring Marquis de Sade and Justine in the dungeon :-0
In this odd but enjoyable film, surrealist director Luis Bunuel eschews things like plot and character development in favor of a wholescale attack on what he sees as the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. This should not be a surprise, since the Church is a common target in Bunuel's films. What is surprising is the almost academic nature of the film. It is literally like taking a guided tour of major and minor heresies in Church history, as well as a sort of rethinking of Jesus and the place of religion in the modern world.
Precisely. This is one continuous litany of the thorniest and pointiest theological discussions you've ever heard or read on the subject. The funny part is that these lofty debates are held in the most unlikely places, which is Bunuel's usual formula. But it's not just your mindless religion-bashing. Quite the contrary - and this is the real surprise of the film.

Friday, February 06, 2004



Is it true that people grow more conservative with age? As a rule - yes. If you understand aging as a process of getting settled socially (career, marriage, house, kids, community, politics, church?) which basically amounts to espousing "the ways of the world" - the more settled the ways, the more conservative the mind.

But outside of that, aging and conservative opinions are not really related. In the end the driving force behind the growing propensity to think and act conventionally (for this is what "conservatism" essentially amounts to) is not greater wisdom but rather a growing resignation in the face of things and the result of a life-long effort to find a place among men and acquire respect and self-respect.

To fight the propensity to conservatism in oneself always entails being somewhat at odds with the bigger world and keep what is called "an open mind" - and this is a sacrifice most people are either unwilling or unable to make. An open mind is rooted in uncertainty - greater or lesser depending on what you can tolerate. The pressures of the world are such that it simply wears you down in the end and you're content to mold yourself in whatever form, so long as it is a well-accepted form, which finally spares you the trouble of being at odds with the rest of humanity.

This wearing down is usually viewed as growing wiser. In the sense of Ecclesiastes - "don't fight it, it's not worth it". And so the older folks look down on the young and laugh at their efforts and vagaries - a poor revenge, considering all the forts they've had to abandon during their lifetime. Popular wisdom is terrifically pessimistic and defeatist - as it reflects a long series of fruitless battles and concludes that this is what life essentially amounts to: a resounding defeat.

Some rare people are able to forestall this great fatigue into advanced age - and those people are usually more than unconventional, they're plain weird and radiant. I once knew an 85-year old woman who was probably about 10 times younger than myself - the secret of her youth and daring was her utter fearlessness.

This example alone is enough to prove that wisdom need not be conservative.




Found a much smaller utility for remote posting - BlogBuddy. Of course it doesn't have a lot of nice features that wbloggar does and it is certainly low on colors - but hey, when every megabyte of memory is precious, a little lack of color shouldn't matter that much. Let's see how this little buddy fares now...

***

Works like a charm. Another important thing to remember: remote host should always be 66.102.15.100 rather than api.blogger.com (because their DNS crashes sometimes, like today for instance). And the rest is always port:80 endline:/api

One feature lacking with BlogBuddy is the title field. Which perhaps means that I wont be able to have posts with titles all that often. And there's no preview of how the post will look - but that's much more secondary. Neither can you update your template with it - also not something I can't live without. And there's no authomatic img tag.
Sure enough, the spell-checker relies on a site that doesn't work anymore :)

But at the same time this prog takes almost no space at all and doesn't install any dlls so your registry remains unfucked. We'll see if I'll prove spartan enough to use it more often than wbloggar.


Oh really

Clicked on the blogdex link and found this headline from Washington Post atop of most everything - apparently people are being tremendously impressed with it. It's called Auschwitz Under Our Nose and it attempts to reflect on why nobody's willing to do anything about North Korea (allegations of gas chambers) by comparing the situation with what happened in WWII when people were aware of the final solution but nobody did anything to prevent it. Here's the conclusion it reaches:
Later -- in 10 years, or in 60 -- it will surely turn out that quite a lot was known in 2004 about the camps of North Korea. It will turn out that information collected by various human rights groups, South Korean churches, oddball journalists and spies added up to a damning and largely accurate picture of an evil regime. It will also turn out that there were things that could have been done, approaches the South Korean government might have made, diplomatic channels the U.S. government might have opened, pressure the Chinese might have applied.

Historians in Asia, Europe and here will finger various institutions, just as we do now, and demand they justify their past actions. And no one will be able to understand how it was possible that we knew of the existence of the gas chambers but failed to act.
There is something that irks me about this article and I wonder what it is. I think I know what it is - it's the idiotic idea that Holocaust is supposed to teach us valuable moral lessons and make us better people. It's that "never again" slogan. And it enrages me that this empty slogan continues to hang in the air after something like Rwanda.

The wide-eyed mentality behind this is beyond words.

And maybe the reason it enrages me so very much is because I myself am permeated with this sort of ideas, whether I like it or not. But just like I was once suspicious and contemptuous of homosexuals yet later changed my views, and just like I was once quite a bit more of an unthinking racist than I am now, so perhaps I will in the end overcome this other stupidity - that's what thinking is for, I humbly hope.

Not that it matters very much. I am not even sure I will stick around long enough to see that happen.


Bomb-blast in Moscow subway

From a Russian newsource. The wreck of the train has been moved to the depot and the subway line is working again. A reporter from the said newsource took a ride on the post-blast line and reports that the platform of the station has been washed clean; the trains are made to speed up considerably when passing through the part of the tunnel where the blast actually happened - nevertheless one can see pieces of clothing scattered around.


I hope nobody I know died today - while I slept. I will have to check.

***

The force of the blast was equivalent to 5k of TNT. So far - 39 dead, 122 wounded.

Beside the Chechen-terrorist trail, the police investigators are also considering the possibility of an accidental blast from somebody transporting a large amount of raw explosives, like gun-poweder etc. A Chechen male is being sought in connection with the blast.

***

Apparently the passengers who were in other cars of the train were forced to spend around 4 hours in the tunnel while the police dealt with the car that got the blast. Evacuation Russian-style.

The blast occurred at 8:32 Moscow time.


Ghetto - in black and white

Watched America Beyond the Color Line on PBS the other day. It's in 4 parts and I especially liked the one called "South: the Black Belt" (how professional blacks are now returning to the southern states) and the other side of the coin, called "Chicago: Streets of Heaven", about those horrific housing projects - of which I have more or less vivid recollections of my own because a friend of mine once lived in such a housing in Lower East Side NYC - though of course it wasn't nowhere near as bad as the sights in similar places in Harlem and Brooklyne.

Of course it was the housing projects that really stirred my interest (and a visit to jail that went with it). Because the maker of the documentary is a well-respected and affable black activist he was able to take an insider's peek at the mentality underlining this kind of living. So the picture that emerged was much more realistic than the stale politico talk you mostly hear on these issues - not surprisingly, the people themselves have a much more sane view of it than the activists (including the filmmaker himself).

For instance there is this comment a girl from the projects made and it's really something crucial. She said: when I tried to tear myself away from this environment I realized that I had no skills at all to deal with the "outside" world. So she joined a support group to get her first "baby-steps". And if this doesn't sound like a convict coming out of a long prison term, I wonder what does. And it's worse than prison: people are born into these huge jails, generation after generation. That's the whole point - that these housing-projects are like huge prisons, where a different mentality exists, and it is this mentality that keeps you from getting out. Not the lack of jobs on the country and crap like that.

The word for this is ghetto. But in the politico talk ghetto primarily means an enclosure that is built to keep people outside of a larger community. Initially that's what it is. But shortly after a ghetto mentality is born, and after that you don't need to put up the fence: it's already installed in the mind. After that - if you want to pull someone out of the ghetto - you have to go in and take that person by the hand and lead him out, and show him the way.

All this is very similar to the immigrant community thing. It's basically also a ghetto - people have no clue whatsoever about how things really are on the outside. They have tremendously distorted ideas. And it takes some serious personal effort to tear yourself away from this. And by walking out on the community, you essentially forsake all support - you are not even an immigrant anymore, you're a total exile.

Which is why the project-housing part squares so nicely with the return-to-the-South movement - those are exiles returning to their horrible homeland, a few generations later. And what homeland will the project-exiles want to return to?

***

Throughout the documentary I kept thinking of those very similar high-rise project-housings in France - for the Arabs, and in Germany - for the Turks. I have a friend who is a German Turk (she was 4 years old when her parents went to work in Germany, and her Turkish is really bad - she's German-educated throughout). The way she was able to break with the ghetto was by running away with a boyfriend. Which demolished her relationship with her traditionalist family. So her biggest struck of luck was when she found a German-Turk women's support group. These people essentially became her second family and helped her get over the mentality that lingered despite all the breaking away. Which confirms my idea: it's really hard to get out on your own. And it goes without saying that racism towards Turks in Germany is a fact of life.


More on money as the purpose of life

Extremely apropos reflections from Joi Ito's blog (turns out it's a hugely popular place - as usual I am poorly aware of my environment: "oh there's the Fuji mountain...") about money. And as this comes from a guy who makes tons of it, it's much more to the point than my own garbage-man musings:
At this point I tossed out some of the questions I've been asking all of the smart people I've been meeting these days. What is money? Is economics really the way we should be analyzing and managing the exchange of value in society? How are non-financial assets such as trust, beliefs and culture created and transmitted? Does more money beyond a certain point really make you happier and if not, what is happiness?
...
I believe that efficiency and greed play a big role in creating healthy economies. Having said that, I do not believe that just because we have free markets and democracies, that people will be happy or that we will have peace. My question is, at what point, if any, do you have too much money? At what point is greed pointless and destructive? Can countries and economies become addicted to economic growth or become financially obese?
Ok now. If I were Joi Ito, I wouldn't ask about happiness - I'd skip that question altogether and concentrate on what happens in the name of that strange notion. The notion is extremely fuzzy and when people equate it with money it's primary to reduce the fuzziness to something obvious. To ask "what is happiness" is like asking "what is the world" - there are a million answers to this one question. So it's probably the wrong question to begin with.

But, before my computer finally freezes on me, I would like to say a few words about greed and "becomig financially obese" as he put it. For indeed it is the big question. Especially since he's talking about economy in general and not just individual "financial obesity". I would put it this way: can a powerful country (or economy) actually renounce its power? My understanding is - it can't. There's just no way (and I can't remember any examples in history) of a powerful country putting breaks on its power-drive, of its own accord.

I am sure I am oversimplifying here, but I think that's the bottom-line: that a large societal structure can't turn itself around in a wise albeit limiting way, not when power is at stake. Unless it's forced to by a threat - in WWII people were content to forgo some of their peace-time comforts. Basically, what I am saying is that there's no way a country gonna fast if it has no reason to fast.

Btw, Ito's post has more interesting stuff in it - rather see for yourself.




At this point I realize that playing with the template-look is actually part of the blogging experience. Apparently, changing the look of the blog somehow reflects change in mood or purpose or god knows what else. It's a natural process almost - it's too easy to do not to do it (well, almost).

I am strongly driven towards a grayer and more austere look. At the very same time I am meditating on how good it would feel to throw all my books out, and furniture too for that matter. I am sure there is a connection somewhere here - empty-walls syndrom, I guess.


Web-design as source of pride - or not

How very intersting - somebody from Houses of Parliament, London, UK is checking out my web-page. On the other hand, I get people from NASA and mil.gov too, so why not the English parliament :-0

***

And speaking of which, another thing I keep wondering about is why I am unable to feel any lasting pride or satisfaction from creating websites of public interest. I once corresponded with another web-site creator who actually took his activity very seriously and seemed able to derive some tangible sense of self-importance from it. I envy this guy - but I do not understand how this works for him. Because I do all the things he does but I don't get to feel the same way. So what secret of human psychology am I missing here?

Ok, there is something I value about web-design: it keeps me busy. And there are even short periods of time when I find it important enough to put some effort into it. But those moments are few and far between. Most of the time I don't know why I am even bothering.

***

This actually reminds me of a certain pattern in my life, and this goes way beyond websites of course. Whenever I get myself to produce or organize something of my own design, I always end up hating whatever comes out of it and then I want to walk away and never think of it again.

One more dramatic occasion happened when I undertook the uncalled-for trouble of organizing a discussion group (in those long defunct listserv days) about a preferred author - and half-way into it, having coopted a number of enthusiasts to start the thing etc, I began hating the whole idea and eventually walked away and never looked back. That was one big lesson I learned for life - never to implicate other people in my projects. The pattern kept repeating itself of course, but ever since it only involved one casuality - that is, myself.

In fact, that experience with the discussion group kept me off undertaking any projects at all for a long time. I sort of imagined that it was no use since I would end up dropping the whole thing anyway. Latter on I realized that the key to circumvent this "hate" effect would be to do things that didn't require endless maintainance - so even if I dropped out at some point, it wouldn't matter because whatever has been done would remain, I just wouldn't have anything to do with it anymore.

Website-building, being a static thing, turned out to be the ideal solution. Maintaining a diary-style blog is also perfectly alright. In the sense that I can always walk away and not hurt anyone by doing so.

***

And just as I kept quitting personal projects, so I kept walking out of my various jobs. The bigger the company, the easier it was to quit - which is somewhat paradoxical, because a bigger company also means a bigger paycheck.

One of my biggest problems in terms of integrating the society I happen to live in is my lukewarm attitude towards money. It doesn't excite me and it doesn't incite me. I don't see it as a virtue because it actually wrecks havoc in my relationship with the world at large. In fact, it undermines this relationship almost completely. When I went for job interviews I had to make sure I would thoroughly hide this greatest failure of mine - that I am incapable to work for money. They all say that they too think that an employee should not work on the basis of a paycheck only - but this is double-talk, in fact they would look at you like you're a total weirdo if you told them you're not motivated by cash. Because the next step would be to actually tell them that you're not motivated by the job either - because this job is only there so the company may keep making money - and you can't understand the idea.

Does this mean that I perhaps hate the so-called capitalist society? I guess the answer would be - yes. I dislike it intensely even though I don't know of an other, different world, where money doesn't exist or has no value of its own. I suppose small communal structures somewhere in the depths of Africa are not money-dependant, but it goes without saying that you can't just barge in and make it your home. It doesn't really work that way.

With all that I am hardly a budding revolutionary, because the truth is - I couldn't give a fuck at this point. Such is the world and I don't deal well with it, but that's my personal problem. Most people I know actually like it the way it is. Let them enjoy their shopping sprees.




There was a murder downtown the other day - saw the report on the 6 o'clock news. It was the very evening when we had this tremendous, gorgeous snowfall. Apparently the guy walked out of a bar and was chased by two other guys with knives and machetes (for some reason a lot of folks here keep a machete in their car), and he ran in that gorgeous snowfall, screaming for help, but there was no one around because of the heavy snowfall and those others hacked him to pieces in the end.

And you know what? I didn't feel sorry for that guy for one minute. You live the life you live and you die the death you die. You love wads of cash and high-living, cocaine and fucking, and one day there's a snowfall and you get hacked. You love money and it loves you back - and then it kills you. RIP.

Thursday, February 05, 2004



Being in the dregs these days, read Jean Genet this morning for uplift - since his books are mostly about how to find beauty while being (or facing) the scum of the earth. High poetry. Very efficient.

****

Also went scavanging on other blogs for something to jump-start my mind. Found this quoted by TSO. Here applied to religious life, but I read it in a rather wider sense and it applies even better [excerpt from Trower's Turmoil and Truth]:
The second tempation for the bored religious is to use scholarship as a distraction. The danger lies in scholarship's being a presentable activity. If the members of a religious order are living in luxury or acting immorally everyone can see they are going off the rails. But no one can see the decline of faith, hope and charity in the soul of a religious sitting behind a pile of learned books. A well-known biblical scholar has described how he started studying Scripture because he found his fellow religious too boring to talk to. But in this frame of mind, what is the use of studying Scripture which is so largely about loving one's brothers, boring or not?
I don't know if one is allowed or not to steal quotes quoted on other blogs but I guess it doesn't really matter.

***

"Presentable activity" is really the key here. While tweaking the IE today, inspected some options I never check and found this striking phrase in the Content Advisory settings: "No sexual activity portrayed. Romance." Yes, indeed. Here is the shortest answer ever to all those wonderings of mine when watching some symbolically sexual love-making scenes in films accompagnied by pseudo-classical supposedly-romantic music. There is a strangely contradictory impression produced by this combination of naked skin and a soupy score - just try to turn the sound off for a moment.

I don't know exactly how this relates to the above quote but I feel there is a direct, though perhaps underhand, connection. Sex is "presentable" as long as there are enough symbolic pointers to let you know it's not really sex - it's romance (because it sounds romantic?) :-0

Notably, some porn movies also lay over a non-descript music score so you don't hear all the supposed humping and bumping going on. And the interesting thing is that it does indeed make quite a difference to the overall impression. And just to check this out: imagine some soupy film-music while watching this stuff and you'll see why I keep wondering about these things.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

On Certainty

I've digitized Wittgenstein's On Certainty and put it online. Hope it stays there for some time. Didn't bother with the German text - English is plenty enough already. It's not a fat book and it has some brilliant insights, plus it's really stimulating reading. Basically it's for my own perusal but I thought - why not pass the word? And voila.

***

Sometimes I read L.W. and I wonder - is there any need to actually synthetize and paraphrase-into-a-compact-package what he's trying to say? Sure, you can always grab some idea and compress it into a neat flat exposé. And then? And then you're content and you think you've dealt with it. That's slogan-thinking - it goes nowhere.

It's quite impossible to just swallow Wittgenstein's books like you'd swallow any other book. It's just not made that way. Those are not really books - they're printed material alright, but that's about it. It's more like poetry actually - a collection of poems is not to be swallowed and disposed off, it requires more of a meditative approach, a back and forth movement. Or take the Gospels, for instance - this too is not really a step-by-step reading - there's a life story sure enough, but it is not the story-line that carries all the meaning.

I am sure there are other examples but I can't think of any right now.

***

No pictures in this blog lately - it takes too much time to surf and look for pics.




Back to surfing at 19200 bps on the uni server. Sure - AOL has faster terminals, but it literally hijacks your entire system for it. What are those hooks on my keyboard and mouse for - let alone all the rest?

"Hooks? Why hooks?! My lady is not diabetic :-0 "

At this time I have a system with shared hardware which means that it is already a big resource-eater and is prone to conflicts and bugs. AOL did it in for good. The last cherry on the pie.




20cm of snow still to fall - I hope it won't bring down that precious tree outside my window - it might, the snow is a bit too wet, and a previous snowfall some two months ago nearly cracked it already (it's arched and has no support).

Otherwise it's a totally glorious sight right now. It's kind of late and the streets are deserted, and they're not clearing it away yet. Snow brings a hushed misty silence on all things. The air becomes heavy - sounds don't carry as far.

I love snow. I'll never flee to Florida - in fact, I might move further North if I get a chance. One of my lasting impressions is a documentary I saw ages ago about some guy who moved to Alaska to live in a hut with a bunch of sleigh-dogs. And when I say a "hut" I mean it - he actually built a sort of shack for himself, without any insulation or heating or windows, and when he described how he would wake up every morning to something like -20C indoor temp, I certainly got the sense that this is what wilderness-living is all about. It takes a great kind of faith to just quit everything and go for this sort of life. Basically this is one of the few things that could still make sense.


Jacob Boehme

AOL is crashing my computer, so I've put some time into finding ways and means to connect to AOL isp without installing their software. Let's say it's not obvious. Lots of networking stuff to recap. And maybe I still won't find a way. Or maybe I will, because I am sure other more knowledgeable people have dealt with this same problem before and solved it a hundred times over.

In any case I will probably have to format the drive and reinstall windows. On the plus side it keeps me mind away from other stuff.

***

Somehow all this drive to defeat AOL started with some reading this morning of Jacob Boehme's Confessions. Strangely enough, what he has to say made a lot of sense to me - I am not sure how. I suppose there are a number of ways to read such texts, but I found that suspending disbelief (or refusing to analyze) was the best way - otherwise you might as well not read it all. One thing that really surprised me is that Boehme doesn't feel at all antiquated. Perhaps it's the translation, but on the other hand his ideas are actually perfectly intelligible, and even more than that - perfectly modern. Whatever vague idea I had of Boehme certainly never included his being so "up to date". Surprise :-0

One thing I found myself doing while reading him, was trying not to get stuck on symbolism (Satan/God etc). This is his language and he knows no other language - but what he says goes beyond that somehow. I suppose his mystical take on Christianity really brings out the purely spiritual part of it - as opposed to what is usually meant by "religious" (Bible-stumping, in popular language). When he says that most people see only with their eyes and declare that nothing exists but what they so see, I find he has a point.

I read chapter 13 of Confessions. One strange feature is that Boehme writes in short numbered paragraphs, very much like Wittgenstein. Previously I've found a viable connection between L.W. and Swedenborg - this one is really only nominal.

[J.B.'s "Confessions" are not available online, except in Portuguese]

***

Like many mystics of his time, Boehme is classified as an "agnostic". Agnosticism is supposed to be some sort of movement, but basically it's just a general claim that certain things are not knowable, no matter what various texts, sacred or otherwise, might say about it. The paradoxical side of this though is that mystics usually invent cosmologies and laws of their own, claiming that it's all based on their direct experience of those unknownable things. I can certainly understand how this runs against scripture-worship which is the usual characteristic of all traditional religions.

Another paradoxical side of this is that, despite these theories and cosmologies, mystics are not religion-founders. They are exegetes of a strange kind at best. Swedenborg or Boehme were convinced that they were as christian as christian can be. Thanks to these crazy and ardent people christianity still makes some sense beyond the countless absurdities it got loaded with over the centuries. In the end, the greatest paradox of all is that it should be so hard to pierce to the heart of a religion - for it is wrapped in so many layers of pompous gibberish (perhaps like a christmas tree overloaded with decorations) that it is almost easier to understand the mystic than to understand the righteous.

[This is a far-fetched statement - and fortunately it won't carry. Here I think of some remark by Andrew Sullivan who decided that Islam is a religion of hate because a number of pilgrims got stampeded at Mecca. That's stark stupid - and it will carry.]

Tuesday, February 03, 2004



I guess some of my pages here were skipped by Google because I can't find the most obvious stuff with it. Fortunately, some other engines are still spidering this blog - like the Waypath for example. The only problem is: it gives the date it spidered a certain post but the link points to the main page of the blog, so you have to look for yourself, somewhere around the date indicated. And it doesn't give you access to the cached pages - like Google does - and this is unfortunate, to say the least. Ah well, at least it goes on spidering stuff.

***

Had an online conversation with a friend and it was bleak. Intensely depressing. I don't know who was more depressing - I or he. Suppose two people pit their philosophies one against the other - but whatever the philosophy, the true situation is still the same: what can you possibly say to somebody who keeps saying he finds no joy in life while doing all the myriad things that life requires? Is being busy with life the purpose of life? Maybe. Or not. Sometimes an expression of hope-amidst-pessimism is deceptive: it may mean not hope but rather a refusal to admit to despair. Which in turn means despair is working at you while you pretend it's all fine-and-dandy. This never goes away on its own. I think he's reduced to waiting for something to hit him hard enough and jolt him out of this perpetual estrangement. He still thinks he can pull himself out of this on his own. In my case this "do-it-yourself" mode has proven an illusion - and I've tried.

The only question is: how long can you wait? At some point the death-wish comes too close to the surface.

Somebody once said the the key to all happiness consists in taking a cold shower every morning. While this sounds minimalist, it certainly reveals one fundamental truth: that this is what answers to the questions of life are like.

***

AOL is crashing my puter mercilessly. Maybe this puter will not last very long either. One day I'll get seriously pissed off with cheap hardware and find a new life without personal computers. Or maybe it will signal the end of me. That would be fine too, btw.

Monday, February 02, 2004



I thought about North Korea. Of course nobody is going to invade or push N.Korea - it has to "implode" on its own somehow.

Why the regime is still holding despite an economy of famine etc. I think it has to do with China. As long as China remains a dictatorial state that it is despite all the economical boom etc, N.Korea's regime will not budge - no "imploding" in sight. Of course I think of the USSR - as soon as it "imploded", all the satellite states around it began to desintegrate.

So it's a good idea to forget putting pressure on N.Korea (they couldn't give a fuck anyway) and put as much of it as possible on China. It will take forever in any case. And I have the feeling nobody really *wants* to push China either - they gave "us" their share of the market and that pretty much shut everybody's mouths. Smart move.


Suicide vs euthanasia

What's the point of going on? Is it really easier than taking the other direction - against the current of life, so to speak?

Any which way it's thinking - either trying to convince yourself to live, or trying to convince yourself to die. Nothing is given and it's an endless decision of life and death whether to climb one wall rather than the other.

There's the instinct of self-preservation of course - far more basic than any mental calamities. This wall has deeper foundations and is harder to take down. But it is not impossible. It takes major digging - this is Alcatraz.

***

I've always known there was something wrong with me. At least as far as I can remember myself. Things looked less dire in the early days, but this rock of contention has gradually come to the surface and it's no use pretending it never was there in the first place. If you're destined to take your own life, you will - don't you ever worry about that.

Suicide is not a rash decision - it is the culmination of a lifetime of efforts and trials that all lead to the same conclusion. There is a logic to it. Every lifestory has a logic of its own and it is damn hard to grasp, let alone explain. On the surface of it things always look absurd and tragic. But they're not that mindless. Far from it.

***

In the documentary about Peter Singer, one of the opponents mentioned something called The Hemlock Society which, he said, advocates suicide. And not simply suicide - but the necessity of suicide. In his view, most of those fervently in favor of authanasia are also proponents of suicide-as-the-best-possible-answer-to-all-your-problems.

I think this is a blatant exaggeration - because this guy confused two things: people in favor or free choice as to ending one's life in a dignified manner (instead of hiding in the bathroom and cutting your veins), and people in love with suicide in general (and those exist too, but these guys have a cult mentality and for them euthanasia is just one more slogan).

And this is something I am very aware of because I've seen this mentality played out on various newsgroups and of course the absurd thing about all this is that those so-called "advocates" are somehow content to push the theory forever without ever taking the appropriate actions themselves. The reason I say it's a cult-mentality is because they can't tolerate dissent or disagreement: you're either "in" 100% (in which case you are patted on the back and encouragingly asked how soon you're planning your next attempt) or you're the enemy. Those who buy into this bullshit are mostly young people - it's just another form of group-belonging for them and the renegade-philosophy that goes with it is really simple ("Fuck this world, it's worthless and I know better. I am going to die on you, fucks" - that type of thing). These people have their own cheer-leaders and their own much-respected-gurus. The sad thing is of course seeing people actually kill themselves partly because it's viewed as the ultimate endorsement of the philosophy.

There is something squalid about a person killing himself in order to please a group.

***

What is euthanasia, if you think of it in terms of suicide? Simply this: going to a chemist and asking him for some potent drug that will spare you the trouble of more messy means. But then you will have to present good reasons for your decision - and put yourself on trial, to spare the chemist's good conscience. Do you need this trial and can you explain? Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't. The one thing about suicide is that it is a free decision - you have no accounts to render to anybody. And I'd rather forgo the chemist with his wonder-drug than deprive myself of this freedom. It's between you, your conscience, and God - if you believe in God. Nobody else enters into this.

***

To reverse your in-built views on how life and death are related - it's a huge struggle. The point is to come to terms with death and with your own place in life, or out of it. There are many fears and you can't defeat these fears if you don't come to peace with yourself in your thinking first. Suicide is a letting go of fears - and it happens well before the actual event. It's a decision.

Like with all things in a lifestory a lot of it is a matter of luck. Thinking and the direction of thinking is largely a matter of luck because unforseeable events come into play - both internal and external. There are no recepies for life, and none for death. Wherever your lifestory may take you - you will go.




I've been having a brutal time this past month though it probably doesn't transpire from this blog.

And what is this with Wittgenstein? I've never had dreams featuring a preferred author before. Just had a second one today though (the first was nicer) - in which an older Wittgenstein was scolding me mercilessly in a darkened pub for some faults I don't remember committing. That was one unpleasant meeting, let me tell you.

(Perhaps I should also mention that another dream immediately preceding this one had me trying to escape in a low-flying helicopter, which ultimately resulted in me lying on the ground and somebody exploding my head with an automatic weapon - in fact, I was only one of the victims executed in this same manner; the last thing I remember is looking at those others chaps scattered on the ground with their brains already spilled out. Brutal.)




"I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl," Timberlake said in a statement. "It was not intentional and is regrettable."

Learning new words every day :-0



Meantime, in Wittgenstein-land...

It is interesting to see how W's mind worked regarding philosophy. Somehow it all looks like Newton's apple. And maybe that's all it takes to "think well" - apples.

***

G.H.von Wright, one of the literary executors of L.W. estate, on sources of thought:
The young Wittgenstein had learned from Frege and Russell. His problems were in part theirs. The later Wittgenstein, in my view, has no ancestors in the history of thought. His work signals a radical departure from previously existing paths of philosophy.[17]

Note 17: I have seen this statement, and the one preceding it, contested. But I think they are substantially correct and important. The Tractatus belongs in a definite tradition in European philosophy, extending back beyond Frege and Russell at least to Leibniz. Wittgenstein's so-called 'later philosophy', as I see it, is quite different. Its spirit is unlike anything I know in Western thought and in many ways opposed to aims and methods of traditional philosophy. This is not incompatible with the fact - about which more is known now than when this essay was first published - that many of Wittgenstein's later ideas have seeds in works which he had read and conversations he had with others. It is interesting to note what Wittgenstein himself says about this in Vermischte Bemerkungen (...Culture and Value, 1980), especially pp. 18ff and 36. In the latter place he says: 'I believe that my originality (if that is the right word) is an originality belonging to the soil rather than to the seed. (Perhaps I have no seed of my own.) Sow a seed in my soil and it will grow differently than it would in any other soil.'
The same von Wright gives this account of how L.W.'s arrived at some of his ideas. I think this is important in the context of "hunting for influences". Wittgenstein didn't need books to think from:
There is a story of how the idea of language as a picture of reality occurred to Wittgenstein. It was in the autumn of 1914, on the Eastern Front. Wittgenstein was reading in a magazine about a lawsuite in Paris concerning an automobile accident. At the trial a miniature model of the accident was presented before the court. The model here served as a proposition; that is, as a description of a possible state of affairs. It has this function owning to a correspondence between the parts of the model (the miniature-houses, -cars, -people) and things (houses, cars, people) in reality. It now occurred to Wittgenstein that one might reverse the analogy and say that a proposition serves as a model or picture, by virtue of a similar correspondence between its parts and the world. The way in which the parts of the proposition are combined - the structure of the proposition - depicts a possible combination of elements in reality, a possible state of affairs.
Same story told by N.Malcolm:
Wittgenstein related to me two anecdotes pertaining to the Tractatus, which perhaps I should record, although he also told them to several other persons. One has to do with the origination of the central idea of the Tractatus - that a proposition is a picture. This idea came to Wittgenstein when he was serving in the Austrian army in the First War. He saw a newspaper that described the occurrence and location of an automobile accident by means of a diagram or map. It occurred to Wittgenstein that this map was a proposition and that therein was revealed the essential nature of propositions - namely, to picture reality.
Ingenious. Luckily L.W. abandonned this view later on. Next anecdote from von Wright:
It was above all Sraffa's acute and forceful criticism that compelled Wittgenstein to abandon his earlier views and set out upon new roads. He said that his discussions with Sraffa made him feel like a tree from which all branches had been cut. That this tree could become green again was due to its own vitality. The later W did not receive an inspiration from outside like that which the earlier W obtained from Frege and Russell.
As told by N.Malcolm:
The other incident has to do with something that precipitated the destruction of this conception. Wittgenstein and P.Sraffa, a lecturer in economics at Cambridge, argued together a great deal over the ideas of the Tractatus. One day (they were riding, I think, on a train) when Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same 'logical form', the same 'logical multiplicity', Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: 'What is the logical form of that?' Sraffa's example produced in Wittgenstein the feeling that there was an absurdity in the insistence that a proposition and what it describes must have the same 'form'. This broke the hold on him of the conception that a proposition must literally be a 'picture' of the reality it describes.[3]

Note 13: Professor G.H.von Wright informs me that Wittgenstein related this incident to him somewhat differently: the question at issue, according to Wittgenstein, was whether every proposition must have a 'grammar', and Sraffa asked Wittgenstein what the 'grammar' of that gesture was. In describing the incident to von Wright, Wittgenstein did not mention the phrases 'logical form' or 'logical multiplicity'.
Another anecdote reported by N.Malcolm:
Wittgenstein then did talk to Dyson about the nature of philosophy and his own part in it. Dyson recalled one anecdote of Wittgenstein's which is of considerable interest: One day when Wittgenstein was passing a field where a football game was in progress the thought first struck him that in language we play games with words. A central idea of his philosophy, the notion of 'language-game', apparently had its genesis in this incident.
[From L.W. A Memoir, by Norman Malcolm, OUP, 1984]


Gas chambers in N.Korea

After cannibalism in Germany, here are gas chambers in North Korea - to bring down the uniqueness of Holocaust some more:
'I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber,' he said. 'The parents, son and and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.'

Hyuk has drawn detailed diagrams of the gas chamber he saw. He said: 'The glass chamber is sealed airtight. It is 3.5 metres wide, 3m long and 2.2m high_ [There] is the injection tube going through the unit. Normally, a family sticks together and individual prisoners stand separately around the corners. Scientists observe the entire process from above, through the glass.'

He explains how he had believed this treatment was justified. 'At the time I felt that they thoroughly deserved such a death. Because all of us were led to believe that all the bad things that were happening to North Korea were their fault; that we were poor, divided and not making progress as a country.

'It would be a total lie for me to say I feel sympathetic about the children dying such a painful death. Under the society and the regime I was in at the time, I only felt that they were the enemies. So I felt no sympathy or pity for them at all.'
I would like this to stay on this blog long after I forget about it.

Sunday, February 01, 2004



Found this American blog from a "Finance guy. Specialist in Middle East"- whatever that means (the LiveJournal name is collounsbury). But he does travel quite a lot :-0

This is really a glaring example of a lifestyle I know nothing about - which makes it all the more intriguing somehow. Incidentally: found via Tacitus.org where he gave the best hands-on answer to the question of "what kind of Arabic do they speak in Iraq".

(reading through Tacitus I nearly died - painful to see how people work themselves into a frenzy over politics)

***

One reason less people watch Super Bowl in Canada than in the States - we don't get to see those tremendous commercials on cable tv here (I dimly remember that this was not always the case).




Now, it's rare that I visit Instapundit, but this was really too much to miss (pun: don't miss The Miss).

Also - "InstaWife" sounds really promising :-0

(it goes without saying that I am morally outraged that the guy decided to display his missus the way he displays his brains - but I'll leave the outrage for some other occasion: perhaps there are more of those in store.)




Regarding human nature:
Yesterday German prosecutors described how Meiwes had fantasised about killing and devouring someone, including his classmates, from the age of eight. The desire grew stronger after the death of his mother in 1999, prosecutor Marcus Köhler said.

In March 2001 Meiwes advertised on the internet for a "young well-built man, who wanted to be eaten". Brandes replied. On the evening of March 9, the two men went up to the bedroom in Meiwes' rambling timbered farmhouse. Mr Brandes swallowed 20 sleeping tablets and half a bottle of schnapps before Meiwes cut off Brandes' penis, with his agreement, and fried it for both of them to eat. Brandes - by this stage bleeding heavily - then took a bath, while Meiwes read a Star Trek novel.
I am speechless :-0




Oh boy - here's a perfectly unknown blog that says things I like to hear: The Blog Without a Name. And once again I have to wonder why it always takes so much randomness to spot something congenial (a friend once remarked that with millions of blogs out there you sort of hope for a super-blog to come your way, but it's like hoping to meet Christ in a pub). Excerpt:
I write this next post in fear that my blog will be increasingly not nameless but more properly called Why the Guardian is Wrong. The Guardian, it is clear, is full of all sorts of intelligent people, most of whom have good intentions and like all sceptical people tend to react most strongly to those things which loom largest in their respective cultures. But why can't they get their scepticism right?
Precisely. However my interest was first picked by his review of a book called The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. And it's not just the review - what's interesting is how he continues to develop on his readings in other posts too.

***

It's the Super Bowl night alright - and what about the 60 Minutes? :-0


Your browser as a dictionary

I've tweaked my Opera 6.05 browser (antiquated but light) to allow for double-click dictionary definitions on those hairy words I constantly run across in webpages. This is great. In fact, Opera has this feature built-in but the dictionary they chose to point to is so packed with graphics it's been basically a pain you know where just opening the page. So I tweaked the goddam thing to point to the very ungraphic One-Look dictionary - which is a portal to about two dozen different online word-factories (in case some word is *really* hairy) and ever since I've been double-clicking like mad. I expect my working vocabulary will rise dramatically as a result of this felicitous tweak. [ "felicitous"? and that's the correct spelling too :-0 ]

Words I learned yesterday: "hairy" and "gnarly" (slang).

Opera also has double-click translation feature for 5 languages (German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese). The last two beat me - because I can't possibly read Japanese or Portuguese pages. I guess if I were really in the mood I could tweak this too for some other languages and some other dictionaries, but it's extremely rare that I need one-word translations while surfing.

Perhaps it's because I have not developped a habit for it - sometimes there are things I don't do simply because I am not used to doing them, but it doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good idea to do them (vast implications here). The truth is however: I can't really read pages in German or Spanish, and I rarely visit French sites at all. So what's the point? Not very cosmopolitan of me, but that's how it is.

Nevertheless, here's a helpful site I just found: Lexicon of foreign words in philosophy texts (it doesn't have Schaudenfreude). I had to look for "lapsus pennae" on Google because none of the One-Look dictionaries had it - they all had "lapsus calami" instead. I wonder why - sometimes the use of Latin phrases differs depending on the national culture. Perhaps "lapsus pennae" is more current in German (philosophy texts indeed), while the English preferred usage is "lapsus calami". The meaning is the same though. What makes it to your local dictionary and what doesn't is a matter of statistics.

[ this is not at all what I was planning to blog about - still trying to recover that disappearing thought ]


The case of the disappearing thought

Perhaps you know that feeling (and if not, you're damn lucky) - a "brilliant" insight comes to your mind and you promise yourself you are going to write it down so as to reflect on it further - and then when the time comes you can't remember what it was exactly - some dim shadow of it "on the tip of your mind" and still you can't quite pull it out into the light. Whereupon the mind goes on a frantic search for those memory road-marks, in the hope that perhaps some association of ideas might once again lead you to that little pebble that got lost in the grass - but nothing comes of it. Previous experience tells you that it's no good pushing the issue - it will come back on its own, when you're doing something else, and you promise yourself that this time you will not let it get away... But experience also shows that there is every chance you will.

Such is the game of the disappearing thought - it comes, it goes, and you can't catch it.

(Am I describing an early stage of Alzheimer's? Could be :-0 )


Technorati getting it right

Amazing - the previous post was spidered practically *as soon* as I posted it. Perhaps it's just a coincidence and they were on their spidering schedule there. Will check this some more to see if they really meant it ("ferrari engine in a VW beetle").


The puzzled renegade

One reason I am posting more links in my posts is because I got more internet access - for free as usually, thanks to AOL's no-credit-card forever-promo campaign (you know, they ask you to input your bank account number and you input whatever comes to your mind, because, thank god, they can't really check it, can they).

***

In any case, I was mindlessly surfing and inter-alia checking some latest trackbacks to TSO's blog (as it is one of the pillars of the temple, indeed) and lol-and-behold found a renegade talking the usual renegade-talk - unfortunately it's only the first post and there is no telling what it's gonna be:
And what do these two topics--abortion and gay marriage--have in common? Let's see. What's the church all messed up over right now? Could it be s.e.x.? Is there any other moral issue, whatsoever, that gets catholic knickers in a twist? Economic disparities? Health care? Anything?

Guess I still ain't going back to church.
Ça crève les yeux - yet it takes getting out of the magic-circle to see the obvious. Perhaps the thing about renegades and heretics (in the most general sense) is their lack of understanding - they don't understand why certain truths must not be said or looked at directly. Unwillingness to brush things aside. A form of simple-mindedness. Or call it intellectual innocence.

Whether this is good or bad in every single case is a "judge for yourself" issue.





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