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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   romantic love is instinctual love
Thursday, December 14 2006
Driving home from a meeting this afternoon in Woodstock, I was listening to WAMC, the local National Public Radio affiliate. As non-urban public radio affiliates go, "Northeast Public Radio" is something of a powerhouse, with quality home-produced talk shows featuring frequent guest appearances by people I've actually heard of. Today's afternoon talk show was called Vox Pop and the subject was dogs, with guest expert Jon Katz (who I think must be the same Jon Katz who frequently writes for Slate - how many Jon Katzes live in Upstate New York who are obsessed with their farm dogs?). The dog banter on this program was fairly pedestrian given the enjoyment I've had reading Katz's writing, and what really stood out was the paradigm of his thinking. When talking about the difference between the love shown by dogs versus the love felt by humans, he was careful to tamp down the cano-anthropomorphizing inclinations of the audience. Dogs love by instinct, he said, and thus incapable of the free will humans experience in truely romantic love. Hearing this I immediately knew that Katz was wrong, but I wasn't sure why. Was it that dogs could experience romantic love just like humans? Or was it that humans love by instinct too? Then in a flash I got it: romantic love is instinctual love!
Think about it. How do we describe romantic love? We say that it is "overwhelming" and that we are "completely caught up." Many people cite romantic love as the best evidence available for the existence of God. These are not the sorts of things said by someone experiencing something for which they have any control. When it comes to love, we are as helpless to its lure as a dog is to that of a fleeing squirrel. Keeping this in mind can help people better understand what an instinct actually is and what it feels like to have one. We like to believe that we are the only creatures with free will and "only animals have" instincts, but it would serve us well to examine our biases and own up to all aspects of our animal nature.

Like most left-leaning people concerned for the fate of the republic, I paid close attention throughout the day to one of the most fragile links in the chain pulling us back to a time of governmental checks and balances. I write, of course, about the fate of South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, who suffered an intracranial hemorrhage yesterday and remained in critical condition today. I wasn't heartened by Harry Reid's proclamation that he'd been to the hospital and that Johnson "looked really good." That must have meant that Johnson hadn't said anything. If Senator Johnson were to end up in persistent vegetative state, you can be sure that precisely the folks eager to find Terri Schiavo a role in Stomp, the Musical would be first in line to call for his replacement.
I found myself thinking that it would be fun to secretly record Christian fundamentalists praying for Tim Johnson's death. There must have been millions of them doing it across the nation this evening as they prepared to climb into bed. I don't know any more about Christian prayer than what I've seen in movies (and had inflicted on me in rural Virginia public schools), but they do pray out loud, don't they? Recording devices are very small and sensitive these days. If there's no actual God available to listen, there might as well be tiny fly-sized electronic bugs!

This evening I met Gretchen at the community college where she teaches and we drove from there to New Paltz with the intention of dining at a fancy restaurant there. We'd recently found that booklet called "The Purple Palette," which offers free entrees at local restaurants, but since it is set to expire at the end of the year, we've been eating out every chance we get.
At first we considered going into Beso, but the menu at the door gave Gretchen an apprehension she described as "sticker shock." We weren't feeling flush enough to wade into a restaurant with $35 entrees. Instead we went to the nearby Harvest Café, where I dined on a swordfish steak (but only because I'd never had it before). With seafood that far up the food chain it's unnecessary to order a side dish of molten elemental mercury.
Somehow conversation got to our first memories of learning things. Gretchen told about the day her father used the Socratic method to get her to design the ultimate camera, and then revealed that it was the human eye. I told about the time my grandmother taught me to count to infinity when I couldn't count much higher than 20. For some reason the conversation became unexpectedly intense and then we talked about something that seems to interest Gretchen: the point where a child comes to grip with the fact that his parents aren't the flawless heroes he initially believes them to be. [REDACTED]

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