The Beanhead Story

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Upon returning from the backwoods

…after a 6 hour trek along savage roads I was back from a six day family christmas foray to the cabin. As soon as I had returned I embarked on the even longer journey by transit to north Vancouver. Milan hosted an excellent winter party at which I had the good fortune to speak to many north Vancouver friends. Also, my minced meat pies were a success, generally approved of even by the vegetarians (although they chose not to partake). The night involved no shortage of bluegrass and newgrass music mostly thanks to Drew and Hillary, aswell as a rousing but, perhaps not impeccable rendition of Cabin Feever 3.5’s anthem: “Don’t Fuck with Jumbling Towers” (youtube link to the original recording will be made known as soon as it becomes available).

In the morning I rose to the rustle of Milan’s father warming his breakfast in the microwave, which finds itself seperated from the kitchen by many rooms, doors, and even a flight of stairs. No matter – the plan in the works was to hike grouse mountain in the snow beginning at 9am. Despite the multiple promises of attendance received in the wee hours of the morning, only Oleh and I actually climbed the mountain. Emily wins the prize for best excuse – having dreamed she had slept in and missed the hike, enjoying coffee and pastries instead, she exclaimed from the breakfast table: “Milan, Don’t steal my dreams!”.

The hike itself proved very enjoyable. After a few slippery and steep sections near the bottom the train flattened out enough such that my boots could easily cope, the temperature dropped, and I picked up speed. The pain in my back disappeared, and our time of 82 minutes is far better than I have done the grind in the past. And while the most enjoyable thing was certainly the winter wonderland, and the conversations with Milan’s father, the second most enjoyable thing was the feeling of accomplishment of having already done the grouse grind, arriving back at Milan’s house before noon. (I should point out we didn’t actually do the grind – which is busy and which has stairs which become treacherous in the winter. Rather, Oleh prefers the BCMCA trail, built by the same people who built the grind after the grind became too busy for their liking.)

After returning from the mountain, Emily, Milan and I proceeded downtown and through a strange series of transitions and Starbucks washroom adventures, to the Buddhist Temple at 11th and Kingsway. A free lunch is served there every Sunday at 2pm. The food, plates and cutlery reminded me of the Veggie Lunch weekly tradition which used to take place at International House at UBC when I was a student there.

I must be off to a New Years Eve engagement, but if there is any honour in the world I will add photos to this post, and make another one detailing the making of the Beanhead documentary, awkwardly meeting Astrid at the Art Gallery, Shoe Shopping with Emily on Robson, Waiting for Michelle in the cold, Dinner at Dharma’s Kitchen with Drew and Hillary and their friends, Coffee with michelle, and a relatively poor nights rest at my old apartment, which left me feeling strangely cold.

Cabin Feever 3.5

I’ve decided to write down the tale of cabin feever 3.5, so it can be remembered for posterity and shared.

On Saturday, after very little sleep the four of us departed only 6 minutes behind schedule – at 10:06AM, from my parents house in Surrey. When we took off the aftermarket outside temperature gage my dad installed was reading 4.5 degrees above zero, and it was raining. My first thought – snow on the Coquihalla, came true after the first snowshed. Strangely, other vehicles seemed happy to drive a safe speed and there was very little unsafe passing. During safe passing, however, inexperienced drivers tended to pull back into the slow lane too quickly, resulting in a shower of rocks making nicks in the truck’s windshield. This year it seems the new contractor hired to clear the snow is doing a proper job – clearing all three lanes rather than one and a half. The downside of this is that the plow convoy will not let vehicles pass, which slowed us up considerably, being forged to drive at 20km/h for 45 minutes. The view out the window looked like this:
Snow on the Coke

When we got to the toll booth we were able to pass the snowplow, but we stopped to use the toilet and to take pictures like this:Fog and Snow at the Toll Booth img_2824.jpg

Jump!The road cleared up and we made good time to Merrit, where we stopped to buy too many vegetables and also some blackberries. Luckily, Merrit has a Starbucks now so we caffeined-up there and set off to blow by Kamloops.Not Stopping

We tried to make good time, we really did, but fate punished our hubris and by the time we got to the only difficult piece of driving – the last 20km before the cabin, it was pitch black. Luckily there was only a few cm of fresh snow and getting stuck was out of the question. We all agreed later that we were perversely excited about the possibility of getting stuck – we had prepared for that eventuality with shovels and chains. Our rational selves were very happy to pull into the cabin without any event, but our desire to be proper adventurers was left unsatisfied.

Not everything that happened in the cabin can, or should, leave the privacy of our minds. Highlights included cross country skiing and a snowball fight that was wildly disproportionate in its allotment of potential energy.Now falling overUnfair Fight

Of course, most time was spent not doing much of anything. Cooking, drinking, EmCookingimg_2882.jpg

One thing that stood out was a discussion on the meaning of “straight edge”, which I now know has nothing to do with not drinking or doing drugs or smoking, and a lot to do with beating other people up if they do those things. In general, it’s meaningful attribute seems to be its militant-ness, rather than its anti-poison stance.

We also seemed to play quite a bit of jenga, or as we call it “Jumbling Towers”

JengaJust starting

Also we made an anatomically correct snowman which I ordered PG-13 ified before we could leave.

Hilaria

On the way home, Emily and Hilary were in no mood to be photographed.

img_3025.jpg

The drive home was all in the dark, but it was on a monday night with very little traffic and I kept the speed down, so it was very relaxing. At least the driving was. The red and green signs at the toll booth, combined with the snow, gave a christmissy feel.

Tollbooth

What is the right way of asking questions in Ethics?

After taking an in depth survey of 20th century practical and political philosophy, one methodological aspect stands out: the purpose of moral theory is to rationalize the field of ethics in such a way as it preserves its normative force. This seems like a mistake, and a de facto conservative and reactionary way of doing ethics. It seems to me that if the task set is to find out what morality is, then a possibility that must be taken seriously is that morality isn’t, and also that morality may be, but may have wildly different forms and implications that we now consider plausible. In other words, we can’t merely look at the existing options, “consequentialism vs. non-consequentialism”, “cosmopolitanism vs. real politik”, etc… It has to be a real possibility that any of these debates could be wildly misleading and both sides false.

I think this is a serious question, what do the readers think? Is the study of ethics meant to give a rational ground to what we already believe? (thus calcifying it into the bedrock of truth) Or, is it meant to ask if morality as we currently conceive of it is true, and if its untrue, how, and what might be what is really “right” in action?

Conservation, Conservativism and the right to cultural practices

The question seems to come up every so often, “To what extent do humans have the right to engage in practice X simply because humans have a history of doing X”. On the face of it, it’s both true and false. It’s prima fascia true in cases of Inuits having a right to their lifestyle in the arctic which may be compromised by global warming, and its prima fascia false in cases of female genital mutilation.

I really wish I had a complex philosophical analysis to differentiate between these two cases, but I don’t. I just know that in some cases people have a right to some historical cultural practices, because they constitutes the content of what it is for them to live a good life, and sometimes the cultural practices are just wrong, and therefore you don’t have a right to them.

Could it be as simple as,  you have a right to your cultural practices insomuch as they are not immoral?

How to make Oat Cakes, a holiday snack that is remarkably low in food

I developed a taste for Oat Cakes earlier this year.  You can buy excellent oat cakes at your corner store. Walkers, purveyors of fine shortbreads, make them, but they are not even the only authetic scottish company to distribute them internationally. However, there are two problems with store bought oat cakes – firstly they cost 3-5$ for a 400 gram packet. The second being they are surprisingly high in fat (several grams per cracker). You can avoid all th is unpleasantness by baking them yourself – and they are remarkably easy to produce in bulk.

Ingrediants:

2 cups oats

1 tbsp oil or melted butter or bacon fat

pinch salt

Blender

Boiling water

a 350″ oven, or 325 convection. Don’t ask me about metric.

Alright, so the blender isn’t really an ingredient, but it’s required to turn the oats into a meal. You could use quick oats, but if you don’t blend them you will end up with remarkably granulated cakes (they’ll still taste good). You can experiment with different blending times, the times I’ve just left the blender on and went to check my email has produces the nicest cakes.

Once you have your oatmeal of desired fineness, place it in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and the tbsp of fat (I use oil, but I presume bacon fat would produce the best results). I have forgone this step and you still get oat cakes, and they are pretty much the same. Still, it feels wrong not to put any fat in them. You could try to double or triple the oil to try to further approach store-bought texture, but since you usually eat them with cheese or jam these seems unnecessarily rich.

Next, add boiling water from a kettle little by little, stirring, until you have a dough. Next, kneed the dough until its a dough and not just oatmeal with water in it.

Place the dough on a floured surface and roll it out to the disired thinness and cut, ideally using some kind of cookie cutter, into rounds. Do not cut them into triangles, nor squares. Hexagons are right out. Place the rounds on a greased sheet and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes.

When you think they are done, take them out and look at the bottom of a few cakes, there should be some moisture left. Place them on a drying rack to cool (if you do not have a drying rack, you should let them to dry upside down so the underneath moisture can escape).

Now that you are an expert at oat-cake production, feel free to quit your job and start a cottage industry producing food from the 18th century. Seriously though, the recipe can be doubled ad infinitum, but I find it unproductive to put more than 2 cups of oats in the blender at once.  This doesn’t mean that I didn’t make an 16 cup batch yesterday.

Oat Cakes

On keeping up a blog (beginning)

The reason I kept this blog secret for a while was twofold. On the one hand, “blogging” is a good example of the formal right to free speech – everyone has the right to speak but they don’t have the right to have anyone listen. Thus, the purest actualization of the blog is the blog that not a single person reads. The other reason is that in the past I’ve started blogs and found them too much work to keep up. The hope for this blog, the hope it might be different, is that it has absolutely no polemic goals.

I take this claim seriously – this is not the blog “so you can keep track of my antics while I’m in X”, and it’s not a blog on any particular topic. It is not a blog to be of interest to the humans. If any of you read it, that is contingent and fleeting. The purpose of the exercise is simply to write things down, as if in a notebook. It is an exercise in public writing, however, because the standard of comprehensibility is universal (anyone should be able to understand).

A “theme” of the blog, if it has one, will be “beginning”. “Beginning” because this is what writing is, beginning over and over again. Re-beginning. Beginning is repeated in every entry, every entry has a “first word”. But this theme is contingent, one could as easily say writing is “continuity” and you never “merely begin” but always add to a pre-existent narrative. However, when one opposes beginning to continuation, one fails to grasp what is essential about both.

Common Misconceptions about Marx

I’ve recently had the privilege of studying Capital, and wish to share a few things will you all.

A) Marx believes communism is political system superior to capitalism. Although there is a way to understand this statement as true, it is deeply misleading. Isn’t that communism is an alternative political system so much as a distinct historical-political epoch. For Marx, history is the history of class struggle, so all political forms in history will propegate class struggle and ossify it in a particular way or other. Capitalism is the last of these systems because it is the most universal, because it eliminates all antagonisms except the capitalist-worker exploitation. The beauty of capitalism for Marx is that it destroys nationalism, racism, pastoralism. It destroys every value that is not reducible to pure exchange-value, i.e., cash. Communism is a political organization which cannot be foreseen in its structure (because, for Marx, ideas are products of material conditions, we don’t have the appropriate material conditions to think what communism would look like).

B) “Marx believes capitalism is immoral”. Although in his early writings he did appeal to what you could call liberal morality to decry capitalism, it is improper to say that Capitalism is immoral for Marx. In Das Kapital, Marx shows how Capitalism has the morality which is appropriate to it – Capitalist morality. This morality consists of the freedom to labour and to recieve a just wage for your labouring. A just wage is defined as the cost of the commodity of your labour, which is the socially average labour time which it takes to produce it. So, a fair wage is a “living wage” in the sense of the amount of cash it takes to sustain you as a human being. This does not mean basic needs in the scientistic sense, because Marx believes with Hegel that there is no strict distinction between what liberals would call basic needs and luxury goods. For Marx and Hegel one important difference between animals and humans is that humans develop new needs, and you can’t take the fulfillment of those needs away from them without making them less the humans they were. In other words, for Marx, if a computer is an integral part of your life (as it probably is) you can’t be deprived of it without becoming less of a human, less human.

C) “Marx decries the division of labour”. This is just wrong. Marx thinks the division of labour is integral to capitalism, and that capitalism is the best political system thusfar because it is the closest to fully actualizing our labouring capacity.

D) “Marx believes you should support the communists no matter what”. This is definitely wrong, Marx thinks you should support whichever party is being revolutionary. So, for example, since the universality of capitalism must be expanded across the entire globe to fullfill its logical destiny (and by that, make the coming of communism, and non-exploitative labour possible), communists should support the capitalists against the opponents of globalization. When jobs are being exported they should explain to the workers that while it might be not in their particular interest, it is in the universal interest. Communists are those who take the long view.