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The Birth of Tragedy

Having been a casual reader of Nietzsche for the last few years, I was already acquainted with the basic tenets of his philosophy when I picked up The Birth of Tragedy — and I had already unlearned everything Bertrand Russell said about him in his vastly overrated History of Western Philosophy. I started to understand Nietzsche when I started to read his philosophy as an artist’s philosophy.* And, in order to understand his polemical opinions on what is good art and what is bad art, you have to be acquainted with Arthur Schopenhauer’s aesthetics. In fact, I would recommend reading Kant and Schopenhauer before reading Nietzsche.

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Hero or Criminal?

Thomas Tamm, the Fed who blew the whistle on the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretaps.

In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies—a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance. When Tamm started asking questions, his supervisors told him to drop the subject. He says one volunteered that “the program” (as it was commonly called within the office) was “probably illegal.”

Tamm agonized over what to do. He tried to raise the issue with a former colleague working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the friend, wary of discussing what sounded like government secrets, shut down their conversation. For weeks, Tamm couldn’t sleep. The idea of lawlessness at the Justice Department angered him. Finally, one day during his lunch hour, Tamm ducked into a subway station near the U.S. District Courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. He headed for a pair of adjoining pay phones partially concealed by large, illuminated Metro maps. Tamm had been eyeing the phone booths on his way to work in the morning. Now, as he slipped through the parade of midday subway riders, his heart was pounding, his body trembling. Tamm felt like a spy. After looking around to make sure nobody was watching, he picked up a phone and called The New York Times.

HERO. We need more Americans like Tamm.

Give this scammer a book deal!

So I’m looking for a short term sublet in Paris on craigslist, and of the many seemingly legitimate responses I get, comes the following (the end is the best part):

It is a great pleasure that to you are interested in my Place.Thanks for your email and it is my gladness to hearing you I am a Single Christain Father, With no kid, My Wife, Pass by Last 4 Month (got dead). Due to the Fatal Accident we Had she got Dead, and I got Dislocation on my Legs and Hand, My name is Pastor Rev Wilson Long The Owner of the 2 bedroom home and its Continue reading ‘Give this scammer a book deal!’

Hoax phone call almost sparks war

A hoax telephone call almost sparked another war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan at the height of last month’s terror attacks on Mumbai, officials and Western diplomats on both sides of the border said on Sunday.

Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani President, took a telephone call from a man pretending to be Pranab Mukherjee, India’s Foreign Minister, on Friday, November 28, apparently without following the usual verification procedures, they said.

The hoax caller threatened to take military action against Pakistan in response to the then ongoing Mumbai attacks, which India has since blamed on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), they said.

The episode – reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr Strangelove – dramatically illustrates how easy it would be for another war to break out between India and Pakistan, even accidentally, following the Mumbai attacks.

From The Times.

Altos de Tamaron – good wine for the low budget wino

Altos de Tamaron is a vino tinto that hails from the Spanish region of Ribera del Duero, where extreme weather provides excellent conditions for viticulture. In fact, the label of this low-budget wonder states, “Made with grapes matured under extreme conditions, between the heat of the day and the coldness of the night, ‘Fire and Ice’ to provide this wine with an exceptional quality.”

I am no fine wine connoisseur, but I have done my share of boozing on a budget, so follow me if you can relate to the experience of tippling tetrabrick Don Simon, or of chugging Carlo Rossi. Until a couple of years ago Sangre de Toro — a Riojan Catalan wine — was my semi-cheapo wine of choice. But retailers savvy to the cheap-wine-loving masses in Spain have upped the price, and now Sangre de Toro sadly costs 5 euros and up.*

Altos de Tamaron comes from the less fashionable region of Ribera del Duero, but it is of an excellent quality. Until a week ago, it cost only €2.99 at Consum (a very aptly named supermarket chain in Barcelona). Now Consum is charging €3.29, perhaps because they have caught on to the Altos de Tamaron phenomenon.

It has nice suave initial attack — unlike those vastly inferior tetrabrick wines which have to be chilled before drinking (unless you are really drunk to begin with). I think I tasted a certain earthy quality one day; my girlfriend noted a certain fruitiness; another day I noticed a certain nuttiness — so, as you can see, it probably depends on the meal you are accompanying it with. I would say it’s a straightforward and friendly wine that adapts to the company it keeps. I found it goes well with rotisserie chicken, mustard-glazed pork chops, and hamburgers. It has an easy tannic grip, and won’t overwhelm your fine palate. In all, a great wine for lower middle class winos who are lucky enough to be in Spain, where even the cheap wine is good.

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* UPDATE: I just got back from Consum and it now costs €4.05. At this price I would say it beats out Altos as the best low budget wine.

Is Žižek an existentialist?

The experience that we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to account for what we are doing, is fundamentally a lie – the truth lies outside, in what we do.

From Violence

The Coen brothers on making movies

From an interview they gave last December at BAFTA.