S&F and Philosophy Now – “Moral Law”

The following cartoon accompanied the print version of Moral Laws of the Jungle, published in the 100th edition of Philosophy Now!  The piece, written by Iain King, discusses the role of empathy in human ethics.

Those of you who know Finn well might guess where this will go.  🙂

Phil Now Empathy cropped1

Teetering bulb of dread and dream

Russell Edson’s poem, The Floor, has been rattling around in my head for a few days – in particular, its brilliant last line describing the brain as “this teetering bulb of dread and dream..”  To me, Edson’s words perfectly capture the continuous mental oscillation between fear and Pandora’s box of eternal hope.

Somehow, this got conflated with an art assignment meant to depict the ambiguous, the ephemeral, and the visceral and I came up with this arguably creepy sketch (I should really have used CFL bulbs, but wouldn’t have had quite the same effect 🙂

BulbofDreadandDream2When drawing, I was also thinking about the tall and god-like figures in Scorched Earth by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun and Dali’s The Temptation of St. Anthony.  Russell Edson’s poem is reproduced below, and some mind-expanding reading on this area can be seen here.

The Floor

The floor is something we must fight against.
Whilst seemingly mere platform for the human
stance, it is that place that men fall to.
I am not dizzy. I stand as a tower, a lighthouse;
the pale ray of my sentiency flowing from my face.

But should I go dizzy I crash down into the floor;
my face into the floor, my attention bleeding into
the cracks of the floor.

Dear horizontal place, I do not wish to be a rug.
Do not pull at the difficult head, this teetering
bulb of dread and dream . .

— Russell Edson

Battle of the Space Hogs – A Not So Fictional Rant

January 13, 2014
Air Canada Flight 1183, with service to Toronto

Ah, there it was.  Row 14.   Middle row, aisle seat.  I parked myself comfortably.  Middle seat empty. Sweet!  Spared a short glance to my left at my row-mate.  Blonde lady.  Lots of stuff.  Should’ve been a sign.

While waiting for take off I amused myself with the usual accoutrements of Canadian air travel.  Flipped through En Route.  Looked at the laminated safety card.  Wondered where, exactly, does the yellow oxygen mask come from.  Surreptitiously studied the distance between me and the bathroom as well as the baby-yelling radius.  Looked at the safety card again.


“Why, helloooooo!   How are you?  Yes I am fine.  Just sitting on the plane on the way to Toronto.”

Startled, the safety card fell out of my grasp and I looked over at blondie.  Who was chatting on her cell phone.  Loudly.

“Yes I know!  No business class for me this time.  I suppose it can’t be helped.”

I snorted and stuffed the safety card into the seat, having come to an immediate and unfavourable opinion about my new row-mate. Clearly it was important that we all learn she was an economy class newbie.

The engines thankfully rumbled, and shortly thereafter we were airborne.  Ah, modern flying.  A technological marvel, yet catalyst for air rage borne of claustrophobia, strong drinks, and seat design that pushes one’s head forward like a bulldog.  And, as I was to learn, catalyst for its lesser known yet highly irritating cousin, seat weaseling.

The steward came by.  “Globe?”  “Post?”

I declined, blondie didn’t.  Well, that’s nice she reads the paper, good for her I thought.  I followed my thoughts aimlessly and had almost drifted off when suddenly, with a great big rustle, the Arts & Life Section was tossed onto the middle seat.  This was shortly followed by Sports.  Investing.  And then, Business.  Suddenly I was annoyed – her little paper hobby was taking up the whole of “our” shared seat!  And I had not yet heard a query of polite entreaty – i.e. would you mind if I put my paper here?

Now, I wouldn’t minded so much had I been asked, but there is a most curious thing that happens when one isn’t.  This is known as the thin line between being graciously magnanimous (Why, of course not, please go right ahead – I don’t at all mind.  Oh, would you like a mint?) to being a ferocious and highly territorial shrew (Well!  Will you just look at what she did!  Took up the whole seat with na’ary a do you mind!  The gall!  And she has bad hair.)

I glared at the discarded paper in hopes that it would catch on fire.  The paper lay there blandly, mocking me with its passivity.  When nothing further happened, I sighed and picked up my book, telling myself I was being silly.  It was, after all, just a newspaper.  And it’s not like I needed the seat. I yawned, stretched, and began reading.

Hark, what was that?  Rats.  It was the sound of my bladder.  I could never refuse its clarion call.  I sighed and got up to travel the 37 rows to the bathroom at the back.

When I returned, just a few minutes later, I made the unpleasant discovery that blondie had seized the opportunity to annex the middle seat in its entirety.  The paper had been joined by a large plastic dossier, and insult of insults, an empty Starbucks coffee cup was indolently lolling about, spilling bits of coffee perilously close to my coat!   She couldn’t have staked her intentions more clearly unless she had peed on the seat.  My inner shrew roared!  It was time for affirmative action.

Think, think!  Saying something almost always backfires and I still had hours to go with this lady… what could I do?  Desperate, I reached down and grabbed my plastic lunch bag, and then spent several minutes erecting a barrier between me and the Starbucks coffee cup.  I fluffed out the bag to make it big like a badass poodle, and pushed some of her paper out of the way.  There.  That should do the trick.  I sat back, satisfied that my message was received loud and clear.  My new barricade should prevent any further annexing.

Yellow immediately flashed in the corner of my vision.  What was this?  I glanced up in time to witness a banana peel being tossed onto the seat!  This was war!  I ferociously rustled my barricade like a sabre, glaring at the peel and hissing.  A few minutes later she took the peel and put it into the cup.  I relaxed and stopped hissing.  She then tossed the cup back on the pile.  I tensed, but then eventually relaxed again.  A small victory I suppose.

The flight continued and I thought that was the end of it.  I had peacefully gotten into my book and had been reading for about an hour when I noticed some activity down near my left armrest.  There was a hand scrabbling about!  What the?  I looked over and noticed she had problems with her headphones so was trying out the middle seat armrest.. again without a comment, a question as to whether I would mind or possibly need it.. and then she cheekily also used the middle monitor and her own.  I started laughing – here was this lady, who was using two monitors, two headsets, three armrests, and had commandeered the middle seat for her garbage.

Heck, if this wasn’t business class travel, I don’t know what is.  Well played, blondie.

S&F and Philosophy Now – “Thoughts on Oughts”

Happy 2014!  The following cartoon accompanied the print version of Thoughts On Oughts, a piece reflecting on Hume’s argument that we can’t derive a moral argument from facts alone (Philosophy Now, Dec/2013).  Finn, of course, sees the immediate opportunity here.

S&FOught clean blog