best when viewed in low light


Je suis awesome

I just gotta brag about the fact that I'm published en francais.

Je suis deux personnes, aussi. Elefante et Elephante. Neither means "elephant" in French (that's pachyderme).


No love

The next salvo in the we-don't-care-about-anything war.

This is disillusioning on three points:

(1) Thinking we know a recipe for love,
(2) Thinking that there is a "right" and a "wrong" kind of love,
(3) Desiring an end to the feelings of love we have.

January 13, 2009

Anti-Love Drug May Be Ticket to Bliss

In the new issue of Nature, the neuroscientist Larry Young offers a grand unified theory of love. After analyzing the brain chemistry of mammalian pair bonding — and, not incidentally, explaining humans’ peculiar erotic fascination with breasts — Dr. Young predicts that it won’t be long before an unscrupulous suitor could sneak a pharmaceutical love potion into your drink.

That’s the bad news. The not-so-bad news is that you may enjoy this potion if you took it knowingly with the right person. But the really good news, as I see it, is that we might reverse-engineer an anti-love potion, a vaccine preventing you from making an infatuated ass of yourself. Although this love vaccine isn’t mentioned in Dr. Young’s essay, when I raised the prospect he agreed it could also be in the offing.

Could any discovery be more welcome? This is what humans have sought ever since Odysseus ordered his crew to tie him to the mast while sailing past the Sirens. Long before scientists identified neuroreceptors, long before Britney Spears’ quickie Vegas wedding or any of Larry King’s seven marriages, it was clear that love was a dangerous disease.

Love was correctly identified as a potentially fatal chemical imbalance in the medieval tale of Tristan and Isolde, who accidentally consumed a love potion and turned into hopeless addicts. Even though they realized that her husband, the king, would punish adultery with death, they had to have their love fix.

They couldn’t guess what was in the potion, but then, they didn’t have the benefit of Dr. Young’s research with prairie voles at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. These mouselike creatures are among the small minority of mammals — less than 5 percent — who share humans’ propensity for monogamy. When a female prairie vole’s brain is artificially infused with oxytocin, a hormone that produces some of the same neural rewards as nicotine and cocaine, she’ll quickly become attached to the nearest male. A related hormone, vasopressin, creates urges for bonding and nesting when it is injected in male voles (or naturally activated by sex). After Dr. Young found that male voles with a genetically limited vasopressin response were less likely to find mates, Swedish researchers reported that men with a similar genetic tendency were less likely to get married. In his Nature essay, Dr. Young speculates that human love is set off by a “biochemical chain of events” that originally evolved in ancient brain circuits involving mother-child bonding, which is stimulated in mammals by the release of oxytocin during labor, delivery and nursing.

“Some of our sexuality has evolved to stimulate that same oxytocin system to create female-male bonds,” Dr. Young said, noting that sexual foreplay and intercourse stimulate the same parts of a woman’s body that are involved in giving birth and nursing. This hormonal hypothesis, which is by no means proven fact, would help explain a couple of differences between humans and less monogamous mammals: females’ desire to have sex even when they are not fertile, and males’ erotic fascination with breasts. More frequent sex and more attention to breasts, Dr. Young said, could help build long-term bonds through a “cocktail of ancient neuropeptides,” like the oxytocin released during foreplay or orgasm.

Researchers have achieved similar results by squirting oxytocin into people’s nostrils — not terribly sexy, but it seems to enhance feelings of trust and empathy. Although Dr. Young is not concocting any love potions (he’s looking for drugs to improve the social skills of people with autism and schizophrenia), he said there could soon be drugs that increase people’s urge to fall in love.

“It would be completely unethical to give the drug to someone else,” he said, “but if you’re in a marriage and want to maintain that relationship, you might take a little booster shot yourself every now and then. Even now it’s not such a far-out possibility that you could use drugs in conjunction with marital therapy.”

I see some potential here, but also big problems. Suppose you took that potion and then suddenly felt an urge to run off with the next person you spent any time with, like your dentist? What if you went to a business convention and then, like an artificially stimulated prairie vole, bonded with the nearest stranger? What if, like Tristan, you developed an overwhelming emotional connection to your boss’s spouse?

Even if the effects could somehow be targeted to the right partner, would you want to start building a long-term relationship with a short-term drug? What happens when it wears off?

A love vaccine seems simpler and more practical, and already there are some drugs that seem to inhibit people’s romantic impulses (see TierneyLab, at Such a vaccine has already been demonstrated in prairie voles.

“If we give an oxytocin blocker to female voles, they become like 95 percent of other mammal species,” Dr. Young said. “They will not bond no matter how many times they mate with a male or hard how he tries to bond. They mate, it feels really good and they move on if another male comes along. If love is similarly biochemically based, you should in theory be able to suppress it in a similar way.”

I doubt many people would want to permanently suppress love, but a temporary vaccine could come in handy. Spouses going through midlife crises would not be so quick to elope with their personal trainers; elderly widowers might consult their lawyers before marrying someone resembling Anna Nicole Smith. Love is indeed a many-splendored thing, but sometimes we all need to tie ourselves to the mast.


See through

Black light art

Fucking hysterical

Thank you, Jean-Martin Charcot, for documenting the female orgasm with such scientific disconnection.

We are awed.


No ideas

"In order to survive, cultures must eliminate most of the new ideas their members produce.

Cultures are conservative, and for good reason.

No culture could assimilate all the novelty people produce without dissolving into chaos."

Right brain in the house

Left hand, right brain?


Cohesion of the pols

From the NYT:

January 20, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
The Politics of Cohesion

In 1962, Daniel Bell published a book called “The End of Ideology.” The title struck a nerve because it reflected the view, common at the time, that the United States was about to leave behind the brutal, ideological politics that had characterized the 1930s and the early cold war. The 1960s, it was believed, would be a decade of cool pragmatism. Keynesian models would be used to scientifically regulate the economy. Important decisions would be made empirically.

Instead, we got what Francis Fukuyama later called The Great Disruption. The information economy began to disrupt the industrial economy. The feminist revolution disrupted gender and family relations. The civil rights revolution disrupted social arrangements. The Vietnam War discredited the establishment.

These disruptions were generally necessary and good, but the transition was painful. People lost faith in old social norms, but new ones had not yet emerged. The result was disorder. Divorce rates skyrocketed. Crime rates exploded. Faith in institutions collapsed. Social trust cratered.

As community bonds dissolved, individual autonomy asserted itself. Liberals championed the moral liberation of individuals. Conservatives championed their economic liberation. The combined result was a loss of community and social cohesion, and what Christopher Lasch called a culture of narcissism.

Instead of ending ideology, the Great Disruption produced ideological politics. The weakening of social norms led to fierce battles as groups vied to create new ones. Personal became political. Groups fought over basic patterns of morality.

Republicans tended to win elections because liberals were associated with disorder and conservatives with attempts to restore it. Yet both sides were infected with the same pulverizing style. Politics wasn’t just about allocating resources. It was a contest over values, lifestyles and the status of your tribe. This venomous style dominated politics straight through the two baby boomer presidencies — of Clinton and Bush.

But societies do mend themselves, slowly and organically. In 2002, Rick Warren wrote a phenomenally popular book called “The Purpose Driven Life.” The first sentence was, “It’s not about you.” That was a sign that the age of expressive individualism was coming to an end. New community patterns and social norms were coalescing.

Crime rates had begun to fall, along with teen pregnancy rates and a rash of other social indicators. Young people flocked to perform community service. Couples created families that sought to harvest the gains of feminism while preserving the best of traditionalism.

In the cultural realm, the Great Disruption came to an end. New social norms and patterns settled into place. Barack Obama exemplifies the social repair. The product of a scattered family, he has created a highly traditional one, headed by two professionally accomplished adults. To an almost eerie extent, he exemplifies discipline, equipoise and self-control. Under his leadership, as Peter Beinart noted in Time, Democrats came to seem like the party of order while Republicans were associated with disorder.

Obama’s challenge will be to translate the social repair that has occurred over the past decade into political and governing repair. Part of that will be done with his inaugural address today. Look for him to emphasize the themes of responsibility, cohesion and unity. Look for him to reject the culture, which lingered in the financial world, of anything goes.

Part of that will be done with his governing style. Obama aims to realize the end-of-ideology politics that Daniel Bell and others glimpsed in the early 1960s. He sees himself as a pragmatist, an empiricist. Politics is not personal with him. He does not turn political disagreements into a status contest between one kind of person and another. He is convinced that most Americans practice their politics between the 40-yard lines.

Part will be accomplished with his aggressive outreach efforts. Already he has cooperated with Republicans. He has rejected the counsel of the old liberal warriors who want retribution and insularity.

But the real test will come in the realm of policy. The next few months will be occupied with the stimulus package. And anybody who is not terrified by the prospect of spending $800 billion hastily has not spent enough time studying the difference between economic textbooks and the way government actually operates.

But after that, folks in the Obama camp hope to create a Grand Bargain. That would mean building on a culture of cohesion and tackling the issues that require joint sacrifice — like reducing deficits, fixing Medicare and Social Security and reforming health care. These problems were insoluble during the era of division and distrust. In the climactic season of his presidency, the winter of 2010, Obama would seek to fundamentally restore balance to American government.

If he can do that, the Great Disruption would truly be over. The next chapter in American history would begin on firmer ground.


Ritual definitions

Stereotypic displays through which members of a very large number of species communicate with their conspecifics.

Performance is part of the message; more precisely, it is a metamessge about whatever is encoded in the ritual.

The sequences of formal acts and utterances constituting ritual are not absolutely invariant but only more or less so.

The invariant aspects of ritual are the changeless messages signified by the order of the ritual's canon - enduring aspects of social or cosmological order.
Variant aspects are concerned with the immediate states of the performers, expressing, among other things, the current relationship of the performers to the invariant order that the canon encodes.

That which is signified by the invariant canon may not be confined to the present - and in the case of transcendent deities, may not exist in the space-time continuum - thus, their signification requires the use of symbols.

Words are the quintessential symbols.

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The use of the body indicates that the subordinated self is neither a fabrication of insubstantial words nor some insubstantial essence or soul that cannot be located in time and space. It is his or her visible present living substance that the performer demonstrates by participating.

Reliance upon both word and act in ritual has further significance. By drawing themselves into the formal postures to which canonical words give symbolic value, the performers give bodily form to the symbols they represent. They give substance to symbols as the symbols give them form.


Star Wars, sort of

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Girls love Babyz

Gender identity is something we willingly take on, once we've observed the way the world works. It's about pleasing people.

Girls who want to have babies and make clothes are just as much girls as the girls who want to play football and beat people up.

The diversity of inclination and experience is the point. And calling it all feminine is the first step towards choice.

Ironic judgment

“The world is going according to man’s own wishes. Men have turned the laws upside down to suit themselves. That is where our problems lie,” he stated

I couldn't agree more.

Ironically, this is what follows:

“This whole thing about gender equality is ‘tummy rot’. Gender equality is a fallacy. That is not how God intended it. God intended man to be the superior. Man is top of the game and I am entitled to my views after 80 years.”

Thank you, George Williams.

[Full article]


Philosophy map


Tetris therapy

As if I needed another reason to think that Tetris (or any other game with similar principles) is the BEST GAME EVER!


Pink history

The question of whether or not girls are born loving pink is a moot point.

Example 1: The "tomboy"

Example 2: The toy store

The history of pink.

Daddy loves you

One can never misunderestimate the lengths to which a man will go to please his daddy.

Sweet shoes

The New Balance 996 2009 Candy Pack.

I want candy...

Conflict: day 1,466,347

There's nothing morally wrong with war. We've been at it for ever.

Let's just call it what it is.


Flying high/high flying

I went for a swing on Sunday and it made waves in my brain. Moving across the horizon was so extraordinary I nearly hyperventilated.

What effect does it have on our brains?

I spent HOURS doing this as a kid.

Thinking cap


Bling teeth

Just do it!

Stretch, Yawn

I've been wandering around at Mstrmnd exclusively.

But I'm back!

And will be posting occasionally to Culture Hacker as well! Check it!

In the past...