Recent comments

  • Snuggle   15 years 13 weeks ago

    Yes, they're mother and son. And we're cat-sitting a couple of blue-point Birmans at the moment (I don't remember their relations to ours - another son and his half-brother I think).

    Welcome to the VirJournal - a very infrequent blog.

  • Snuggle   15 years 13 weeks ago

    Awww... :) Are they related? Two of mine do that, but they're not related. I think that the younger (short-hair) one just takes advantage of the elder one's long fur! :)

  • Morality off. Check.   15 years 33 weeks ago

    A fair point, Vilhelm. I wonder what studies have been done that attempt to separate the effect of patriotism from religious indoctrination. My limited searching of Google Scholar is overwhelmed by the number of papers on Israeli identity when I try to look for papers that reference Tamarin.

    Israel seems to have a particularly strong dose of nationality=religion=identity, as Tamarin found when he tried to get his nationality registered as Israeli instead of Jewish. His request was denied by the Supreme Court.

    However, I would expect that similar results to his (if less polarized) would be found in children in almost any Western nation where they've been brought up in Christian families. My expectations are based on personal experience. I was brought up as a God fearing Christian, and passages from the Old Testament never struck me as particularly immoral until I was well beyond my teenage years. I look back now and wonder how I could have missed it, how I could have failed to shudder at stories of genocides (or were they "cleansings").

    I was a smart, curious child. I asked lots of questions, but it seems that I wasn't asking the right questions. (Probably too focused on technical things.) I was lulled by being surrounded by adult authorities who had all accepted the idea that the terrific things told in the Bible were all morally right because God had commanded them, and God wouldn't have commanded them unless they were the best possible thing to do. Wiping out God's enemies was relegated as unfortunate but necessary.

    How much of my own juvenile gullibility was fed by Jewish nationalism? As a non-Jewish Australian, virtually none. So in my case, the question reduces to how much my moral decision-making was influenced by religious training and how much was due to other factors like:
    - being immature and having underdeveloped empathy
    - watching slapstick comedy and violent cartoons, etc.

    Those are the sorts of questions that would be good to see research studies on.

  • Morality off. Check.   15 years 34 weeks ago

    I wonder how much of the effect show in the experiment was due to religion and how much was due to patriotism, though. After all, the atrocity was conducted in the name of "Israel", and even non-religious Israelis tend to be very passionate about their country.

  • The Invasion Of It   15 years 44 weeks ago

    Your point is taken. To be honest, I hadn't even noticed the capital I's: they're a bit harder to see in this font. Still, it's a non-standard use of capitalization, and I'm afraid it doesn't work to convey to me what you want it to. I'm reminded of one of the limericks I wrote for OEDILF: anti-choicer. In that case, I was on the other side--I wanted to capitalize "Chance" for reasons of my own, but the preponderance of WEs convinced me that most readers would not see what I wanted them to in the capital C anyway.

    The notion of consciousness as a factitious union of disjunct moments reminds me a little of Zeno's paradoxes: At any given moment the arrow is in a particular spot in the air, so how does it ever move from one to the other?

  • Virge's Guestbook   15 years 44 weeks ago

    Good to hear from you psh. I've forwarded your message to Carol.

  • The Invasion Of It   15 years 44 weeks ago

    Yes, every moment works too, but I avoided that extension because it's harder to get your head around. Sleep (dreamless that is), by providing a time interval when one's consciousness doesn't exist at all, makes it easier to point out the illusion of a continuous self.

    The second last line is deliberately left with no capitals on either "it" or "me". Prior to that line, identity is clinging to "My"; Following it, identity has passed to "It". That transition would be clearer if lines 2-5 were to start with a lower case "it" -- a conflict between formatting conventions and clarity.

  • The Invasion Of It   15 years 44 weeks ago

    Interesting take. You might possibly say the same about every moment, mightn't you?

    Why the capital M's? I'm guessing they were to distinguish between two definitions of self, but I found them jarring. Also, you didn't capitalize "me".

  • Virge's Guestbook   15 years 44 weeks ago

    Hi Virge,
    ... In OEDILF I was once known by my initials, psh. Today, I noted Carol June Hooker's OEDILF contribution on the word "bluecoat", inspiration for which was attributed to me. I congratulate her on a fine bluecoat effort. Should Carol June or anyone want to contact me, my email address is
    All the best,
    P. S. Hamilton (psh)

  • Virge's Guestbook   15 years 45 weeks ago

    From Here to China! (a story in 55 words.)

    As kids, Skip and Joey knew that if you dig deep enough you will find China. But they always got bored before the hole went much past their knees.

    They grew up and the legend faded.

    Two young marines were stationed near Shanghai.

    While out digging fence holes they wondered, was this their ticket home?

  • Virge's Guestbook   15 years 49 weeks ago


  • Virge's Guestbook   15 years 51 weeks ago

    No, not me. I'd guess someone liked my template limerick and decided to write their own, but it's quite possible that they stumbled on the same idea independently.

  • Virge's Guestbook   15 years 51 weeks ago

    Virge, is this you?

  • Living Next Door to Alice   16 years 1 week ago

    I guess the advantage in taking drugs to achieve similar effects is that you know what's causing the distortions of your reality. You feel in control of your own lack of control. It doesn't make one immediately fear the loss of sanity.

    One thing that surprised me as I started reading more about mind (both in books and on blogs like Mind Hacks1) was that hallucinations, visions, waking dreams, hearing sounds and voices, and other distortions of senses are much more prevalent that I had imagined (schizophrenia in about 1%; some form of psychosis at some time in 10-20% of the population). This is just the sort of thing that people aren't keen to share because of the stigmatization of the "madman".

    It's relatively easy to talk about something that can be related to a migraine or a faint. It's also easy to talk about distortions that we experienced as children but have now grown out of. (At least I find it so.) We can compartmentalize these events and say "that's not me here and now." We can go back to our normal confidence of being autonomous rational agents, trusting our own judgment and expecting others to share it.

    One can see how easy it would be to interpret mild symptoms of psychosis in supernatural terms. It externalizes the loss of control. This is very much a tangent to the topic under discussion, but it sprang to mind because I recently heard of an acquaintance who had been experiencing demons trying to get into her house. Her mental breakdown followed some time later. Being aware of the prevalence of psychosis, I (at a distance) interpret the story without recourse to supernatural explanations, although I know that others find the narrative of demonic attack to be more compelling.


  • Living Next Door to Alice   16 years 1 week ago

    For a period of about a year, I used to get migraines. No headache; just flashing colored lights that began on the fringes of my vision and moved inward until about half of my sight was obscured and I could only see straight ahead of me. Then they would suddenly cut out, leaving emptiness behind. This partial blindness would slowly recede back outward until I had full vision again. The whole thing lasted around 5-10 minutes.

    And just once I apparently had a sort of seizure: I asked the people in the room with me, "What's that awful smell?" No one knew what I was talking about. I'm not sure if I did anything else, but I came to about a minute later. I don't remember any of this, by the way.

    After that, my father took me to get my brain scanned. The EEG apparently disclosed some sort of epilectic patterns. The doctor said I would grow out of it and apparently I did. After that year, the migraines became much rarer and eventually stopped, and as far as I know, I never had another seizure.

    Hmm, that didn't really have too much to do with your post except that children sometimes have strange mental conditions that they grow out of. Your Alice in Wonderland syndrome sounds intriguing, though. Maybe even a little bit fun. Don't people take drugs to achieve similar effects?

  • More on Apologies   16 years 1 week ago

    There is a national culture, but it has a fairly strong element of self denigration. We're a "nation of knockers". Any nationalistic pride is counterbalanced (at least to some extent) by a reluctance to put heroes on pedestals, a willingness to cut down tall poppies, a desire to be seen as a nation of ordinary no-nonsense blokes and sheilas who don't make a fuss and don't try to seek attention or personal elevation.

    Of course, this is a very broad generalization. You'll find plenty of Aussies who are more "American" in their attitudes. And just because we can be negative about our nation doesn't mean you won't find a strong national pride in most Australians.

    But if you're looking to compare cultural outlooks, the nation of knockers idea is a good start to understanding Aussies. I don't think you'll find any of the sense of exceptionalism and entitlement (e.g. "God's chosen nation") like in the USA and to a lesser extent (in recent history) the UK. Our background as a nation of convicts probably helps to explain the respect we hold for "Aussie battlers".

    I'm at the shallow end of the nationalism spectrum. I don't feel at all like O. Henry's caricatured cosmopolite. I am a citizen of Australia. Australia is home for me because it's where my family and employment is. It's where I can be comfortable and free. However, there are many such places in the world where I could be similarly comfortable and free, so I see no need to attach strong emotional bonds to Australia as such.

  • More on Apologies   16 years 1 week ago

    So you really have no Aussie pride? Wow.

    I like Australians--at least the handful I've come into contact with. (I include New Zealanders in that small count; I don't know whether that is a controversial thing to do.) Wouldn't you say there's some sort of national culture? And doesn't that lead to a sense of national identity?

    "Uniquely" was a bad choice of word. I'm certainly no expert in comparative religion. I was really just comparing the two.

  • More on Apologies   16 years 1 week ago

    I had read A Cosmopolite in a Cafe a couple of years back when I went through an O Henry kick, but I couldn't remember it from the title so went back and re-read it. While it's an amusing poke at the mask that covers the deeper feelings, and may be true of a lot of people, I don't think I could summon any ire at all if I were to hear someone speaking ill of Melbourne or its residents. Over the past 40 years I've observed a real diminution of the importance of nationality and parochiality. Even in sports (a subject of considerable weight to a lot of Australians) the boundaries are seen to be arbitrary: an Eastern Bloc Olympics medalist one year can be an Australian champion by the next Olympics.

    Maybe I've been conditioned by Melbourne, growing up with the Serbs and Croats who had just immigrated, and the Greeks and Italians who were already well established, and seeing the steady influx of Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesians, Indians etc. It's hard to get all patriotic about your place or people when you can see all these people from around the world getting on with life. The one thing that we learn to value is a political structure that keeps race and religion at arms length (or usually tries to). And as Kevin Rudd put it in his apology speech, we expect everybody to get a fair go. While I don't feel at all responsible for the crimes of the past, I'm happy to see my tax dollars being spent on fixing the problems we have now, a good number of which have been caused or aggravated by government actions and ordinary Australian actions from the past. In that sense, I'm accepting my part of the responsibility to fix the problems without feeling any ownership of the causes, nor any strong kinship with those who've contributed to it.

    I think you've probably got a fair idea of the Christian views (plural) of original sin now. But I'd disagree with labeling it as a uniquely Christian concept. Early Christianity was heavily influenced by Gnosticism, so the idea of a pure soul in a tainted, guilty body (the body being part of the material world which was created by the demiurge) would have been easy to integrate.

    I do find the history of religions interesting. It's amazing to see the way beliefs and understandings can change and adopt new survival strategies, to the point where the behaviors and practices are completely different, but the adherents will still think of it as the same religion with exactly the same deity (or deities).

  • More on Apologies   16 years 1 week ago

    Presumably you're right: there is no direct link between present-day Australians and earlier generations of Australians when it comes to the 'lost generation' of Aborigines. Still, it's very human to feel a connection to one's ancestors and descendants, the people ahead of us and behind us in the chain of life, in a very similar way to how people feel pride (or shame) in their ethnicity. From a strictly rational point of view, no doubt, you are right: we are ourselves, not anyone else but in actuality, it's not always easy to think that way. (Have you read "A Cosmopolite in a Cafe", by O. Henry? I don't consider it one of his best, but it makes a similar point.) And if we can take pride in our ancestors, or our countrymen, surely being ashamed and apologizing on their behalf is only the other side of the coin.

    Sadly, Australia is not the only country with such a story. A very similar thing happened in Israel with the Yemenite Jews (who, like the aboriginal Australians, have preserved their culture for many hundreds of years). How I wish that the Israeli government would apologize for its actions as the Australian government did, or even acknowledge them.

    Incidentally, while trying to give a good literal translation of that rabbinic statement I mentioned, I've just realized that I accidentally used an ambiguous word. By "deeds", I meant actions, not title deeds.

    As for original sin (although I know you only mentioned it incidentally), that's an interesting point of comparison between Judaism and Christianity. Not being a Christian, I am sure that my understanding of the Christian concept is unsophisticated, but if original sin means that men are born needing atonement for a sin that they did not commit, then it is a uniquely Christian concept. On the other hand, there is some parallel in Judaism--after all, the story of Adam's sin comes from the Hebrew Bible. The general Jewish understanding (as far as I myself understand it) is that Adam's sin fundamentally altered the nature of the world, and what it was to be. In particular, it embedded the Evil Inclination (whatever he represents) into man's nature, so that since then, man has a natural inclination to sin, which it is his task to fight and suppress. But I wonder whether all this theology interests you. (I find it interesting, but of course I wear the shoe on the other foot.)

    PS- I had a glance at Wikipedia's entry for original sin. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems that there is a range of views as to the meaning of Original Sin in Christian theology, some closer to and some further from the Jewish view.

  • More on Apologies   16 years 2 weeks ago

    As far as I know, there was no payment at all made for land appropriated from Australia's indigenous people. There has been a lot of action over the past couple of decades about land rights and compensation. That's a huge discussion in itself, so I won't even start.

    The lost generation is a difficult case to interpret in terms of holding deeds in one's hands or not. I don't think there are any Australians in positions of power today who would advocate separating Aboriginal children from their parents, except in situations endangering the child (i.e. the same conditions under which children would be removed from a non-Aboriginal family). In that sense, we don't hold the attitudes of former governments, and it's hard to see how anyone in Australia could be profiting from the lost generation actions of the past.

    It is interesting to hear more detail about the sins of the fathers teachings as interpreted within a Judaic tradtion. Of course, the way Christianity adopts and uses those teachings is to use one to support one piece of doctrine (original sin--to emphasize the need for salvation for absolutely everyone i.e. a marketing tool) and the other to support the way they want to interpret sin (i.e. everyone for themselves--because anything else is too likely to lead to confusion and contradictions). Of course, that division of applicability doesn't stop them using the inherited sin idea whenever it's convenient, and building complicated definitions of different types of sin. *sigh*

  • More on Apologies   16 years 2 weeks ago

    You mentioned Judaic teachings. Can I weigh in about that? The Hebrew Bible is somewhat contradictory about this concept, on the surface. In one place it talks about "registering the sins of fathers to their sons, to third generations and to fourth generations". In another place, it says, "sons shall not die on account of fathers". The rabbinic explanation of these two verses, if I recall correctly, is that 'one is when they are holding the deeds of their fathers in their hands, one is when they are not holding the deeds of their fathers in their hands'. (apologies for the awkward translation, but I wanted to be as literal as possible to avoid accidentally imposing my own view onto their words)

    As I understand it, this means that if the children have abandoned their fathers' ways, and, particularly, any profit that came from their parents' misdeeds, then they cannot be held accountable for them, but if they hold on to the profits of evil while disclaiming responsibility for it, then they can and will be punished for it 'unto the fourth generation'.

    For instance, to speak about the United States, the American Indians may have a very legitimate grievance against the United States government and citizens for taking their land and confining them to reservations. It doesn't help for present-day Americans to say, "We are not the ones who did it", if they are the heirs to the stolen land, and the ones who control it to this day. By not making restitution for the sin, they perpetuate it, as it were.

    I don't know how it is in Australia.

  • A Special Birthday   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Fair comment, Judah. In retrospect the genie imagery doesn't add anything there. It actually detracts from the idea of the gift being more of a chore.

  • Letters I didn't write   16 years 3 weeks ago

    No personal criticism taken, Judah. We come from completely different backgrounds (both due to culture and due to every family being different even within a culture), so it's interesting to compare notes.

  • A Special Birthday   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Very good, as usual. I like it, but I found it a touch glib in spots. E.g. "rub its genie" felt like a stretch--clever, perhaps, but a trifle forced.

  • Letters I didn't write   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you on this. All I had in mind was: there's a strong tradition (not quite the word I want, but I can't think of the word I want) among Jews of respect for elders, particularly parents. 5th commandment, for one thing; aside from that, there's a general notion that the closer to the revelation of Sinai a generation is, the greater it is, in some sense. So, while I don't see eye-to-eye with my parents on everything (really, one can't see fully eye-to-eye with anyone, even if he is standing next to him), I wouldn't presume to say that my perspective is somehow higher than theirs.

    Now that might be taken as an implied criticism of you--you don't have enough respect for your parents or something like that. That was why I hesitated to post it. I hope you won't take it that way, though.