Deus ex Machine

Only today did I learned the correct meaning of Deus Ex Machine.

My entire life I have confused it with the phrase “Ghost in the Machine”, the title of Arthur Koestler’s famous book about evolution.

According to Wikipedia, Koestler borrowed the phrase from “British philosopher Gilbert Ryle‘s negative description of Rene Descartes‘ mind-body dualism.” 

“Ghost in the machine” refers to our primitive brain structures (like the limbic system) which can and do overpower higher logical functions. According to Koestler these structures are responsible for base emotions like hate but also other destructive impulses and uncontrolled behaviour.

Deux ex Machina however is something completely different.

Again from Wikipedia:

Deus ex machina (deus ex mƒÅchinƒÅ, plural deƒ´ ex mƒÅchinƒ´s) is Latin for “god from the machine” and is a calque from the Greek mƒìchanƒìs the√≥s…It originated with Greek and Roman theatre, when a mechane would lower actors playing a god or gods on stage to resolve a hopeless situation. Thus, “god comes from the machine”. The phrase deus ex machina has been extended to refer to any resolution to a story which does not pay due regard to the story’s internal logic and is so unlikely it challenges suspension of disbelief, and presumably allows the author to end it in the way he or she wanted. In short, deus ex machina refers to a cop out plot device.

In modern terms the Deus ex machina has also come to describe a person or thing that suddenly arrives and solves a seemingly insoluble difficulty. While in story telling this seems like cheating, in life, this type of figure might be welcome and heroic.

There is a Serbian band that uses the literal translation of Deux ex machine as a name: Neocekivana sila koja se iznenada pojavljuje i resava stvar.

Saturday 17th of December means one thing only: Saturnalia!

From the World Wide Words newsletter:

“The original Saturnalia was a Roman mid-winter festival held in the middle of December, starting on the 17th in the modern calendar (or the 25th in the Roman one). It lasted for seven days and was a period when excess was encouraged: the shops were closed, gambling was permitted, presents were exchanged, slaves were given licence to speak their minds and join in the fun, and generally joy was unconfined. The holiday began with a sacrifice to the Roman god of agriculture, Saturn (Latin “satus” means sown), whose day it was.

The name of Saturn has also given us “Saturday” (“Saturni dies” in Latin, the day of Saturn) and “saturnine”, gloomy, dark featured, dull, and moody – a description that sits oddly with the revelry of his annual festival. But the medieval alchemists identified Saturn with the element lead and astrologers with slowness and gloom.”

Also see…

“ZUGZWANG…familiar to every serious chess player. It’s from two German words: “zug”, to move, and “Zwang”, a compulsion or force. It’s a chess position in which a player must move but in which any move he makes will only make his position worse. Much like real life, really …”

Why are Lefties fawning over Bin Laden's prose?

Because he parrots and plagiarises them mercilessly. From Mick Hume in Spike Online “- Bin Laden’s script: ghost-written in the West

I reckon the reason why some commentators in the West seem drawn to bin Laden’s prose is because at times – and I’m not going to beat around the bush here – he sounds an awful lot like them. Seriously, it is uncanny. What comes across most clearly in this 10 years’ worth of rants is the extent to which bin Laden borrows and steals from Western media coverage to justify his nihilistic actions. From his cynical adoption of the Palestinian issue to his explanations for why he okayed 9/11 to his opposition to the American venture in Iraq, virtually everything bin Laden says is a rip-off of arguments and claims made in the mainstream media over here. He has taken the justifications offered by left-leaning pundits for al-Qaeda’s existence and actions (in the words of one commentator: ‘There is a simple reason why they attack the US: American imperialism’) and made them his own. And now these pundits have returned the favour by giving him his own book and glowing reviews to boot. It is the unholiest of marriages.

MORE

Shia fightback in Iraq

Insurgents ‘shot in arms and legs, then drowned’

This from the mouth of a 14-year-old boy: “They tied the legs and hands of 11 Sunni men and hanged them off the river bridge – head-first. But they still refused to talk, so Sheik Khadum Shibley shot them in the arms and legs and then he cut the ropes.”

The schoolboy Munthadar Ishmail Kudair’s chilling account of a Shiite village’s despatch of suspected Sunni insurgents adds credibility to rising Sunni complaints of a long-delayed but vicious Shiite fight-back after two years of relentless Sunni-backed violence in Iraq.

…Most of the civilian casualties in post-invasion Iraq have been Shiite victims of Sunni violence. But in recent months, the Sunni head-count among the thousands processed at city morgues has risen dramatically.

Succinct sceptics credo

A Very Short Essay on Doubt (composed of very famous quotes) by Michael Canfield [From Sceptic magazine]

I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.
— Bertrand Russell

To have doubted one’s own first principles is the mark of a civilized man.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
— Descartes

But,

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
— Bertrand Russell

The best lack all convictions, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.
— Yeats

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
— Voltaire

Therefore,

Doubt ‘til thou canst doubt no more … doubt is thought and thought is life. Systems which end doubt are devices for drugging thought.
— Albert Guerard

Because jail sux

An advert for Class A.co.nz, a company making “Social Tonics” (i.e legal drugs) has caused outrage in New Zealand becuase it depicts the aftermath of a prison rape with the subtitle “Because jail sux”.

Here is the offending image which shows a blood stained bar of soap on a prison bathroom floor: