Saturday, March 08, 2008

An Embryonic Form of Intellingent Atheism in Romania

Among the various manifestations of atheism I came across in Romania, the one expressed by Costi Rogozanu - journalist and literary critic - is one of the most reasonable and articulate ones. He quotes English novelist Ian McEwan in an interview to The New Republic :

"I think it is important that people with no religious beliefs speak up and speak for what they value. It is a bit of a problem, the title "Atheist"--no one really wants to be defined by what they do not believe in. We haven't yet settled on a name, but you wouldn't expect a Baptist minister to go around calling himself an "aDarwinist". But it is crucial that people who do not have a sky god and don't have a set of supernatural beliefs assert their belief in moral values and in love and in the transcendence that they might experience in landscape or art or music or sculpture or whatever. Since they do not believe in an afterlife, it makes them give more valence to life itself."
to sum up his view in the following phrase :
"it is not the anti-God attitude which fundamentally characterizes an atheist (that is if he is a rational individual), but rather the decision to dedicate himself to the immediate palpable values, to analyzing himself and the others"
A very elegant argument by McEwan and a nice conclusion by Rogozanu. "Atheist" is an unfitted word to describe such a person, "humanist" would be much more accurate. Indeed, if one's goal were to narrow one's artistic spectrum only to productions without religious connotation, then he would miss a big part of what human nature is all about, which is not a true humanist's approach.

Side note : As you all know, my favorite form of atheism - for now I have to use this unfortunate word since "humanism" hasn't yet gained enough momentum during the last 5 minutes - is satanism which basically is atheism with a dark sense of humor (in the words of Akercocke).

Whose Voters are More Rational

I guess Mrs. Clinton's, the "beer-track" Democrats as they are portrayed in this week's issue of The Economist magazine in the Lexington column, Obamaworld versus Hillaryland. Unlike the unselfish supporters of Mr. Obama, the "wine-track" Democrats, Hillary Clinton's followers seem more inclined to follow their own interest when they cast their vote.

Gary Gygax Obituary

A nice RIP to Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, from the one and only Steven Colbert :

"May you prismatic spray always bypass your target's reflex saving throw."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Manchester United - Olympique Lyonnais

At halftime Manchester United leads 1 - 0 in today's match against Olympique Lyonnais. My usual reaction in moments like these is to quote Winston Churchill and as an immediate consequence to think to Iron Maiden's Aces High. Except that right now I'm not doing any of these since I'm blogging:)

" We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender."
Update : Nothing changed during the second half. Anybody knows a victory song for when you lose?:)

Monday, March 03, 2008

Links for Today

  • Buffer Overflow has been elected on a shortlist along with 78 other blogs to compete in the Best Romanian Blog section of RoBlogFest 2008 awards. Unlike in the similar section which is open to public voting, the winner in this one will be elected by a jury. This is a decisive step forward in turning RoBlogFest into something more than a popularity contest with the remark that there is a lack of visibility over the jury's evaluation criteria. Thanks a bunch for the nomination and good luck to me:)
  • Via Greg Mankiw, a very interesting article in the New York Times about the mechanism of informational cascades which contributed to the housing bubble and led experts into failing to anticipate it - although I cannot imagine experts being completely unaware of the phenomenon.
  • Senator John McCain scores some good points on NAFTA (check out this video on YouTube recorded before the Iowa primaries) unlike Barack Obama. At least the guy is trying to be reasonable, some loose their jobs because of free trade but the overall benefits of buying foreign-made goods at a lower price is much more important and the loss of jobs can be balanced through training and education for the local needs. He also found a new line of attack on Obama which links NAFTA to Canada's military support in Afghanistan, very nice move Mr. McCain (via Greg Mankiw).
  • Transylvanian Black Metal will be represented at this year's Wacken Open Air festival by Negura Bunget from Timisoara. They will also be playing at the Summer Breeze festival which I attended last year. Kudos guys, very nice achievement. Although I'm not exactly up to date with their latest albums - from 2000 onwards - I am still seduced by their first release in 1996 under the name of Negura Bunget, Zîrnindu-să. It was mind blowing! I remember I was like "Where do these guys come from?" the first time I listened to the tape. The album is a masterpiece of classic Black Metal, fast paced drumming, raw guitars, foggy corpse painted figures roaming on the misty hill tops of Transylvania, barely listenable poor production and on top of that cryptic lyrics written in a difficultly comprehensible form of old (maybe middle-aged) Romanian language. As a kid the overall feeling I got from listening to this album was the revival of a long lost form of Romanian pagan culture which once extended beyond the grim boundaries of those years' nationalistic and religious orthodox exuberance. I guess it's not that far from the excitement of a Norwegian kid when listening for the first time to Darkthrone or Mayhem, but my gateway into Black Metal was Negura Bunget. Today Negura Bunget's artistic expression has evolved into a much more articulate form of esoteric mysticism which makes them far less appealing even if their music still preserves some raw Black Metal elements. When people take these things too seriously they suddenly loose all their fun. Nonetheless, Zîrnindu-să remains a landmark album in the Romanian Black Metal scene, so I encourage you to listen the keyboard enhanced version of Dupre Reci Imbre on the band's MySpace page. I'm anxious to seeing them at Wacken.
  • Another excellent news coming from the 2008 Wacken Open Air festival is the participation of the godfathers of Progressive (Death) Metal, Cynic. There's no better review than that on Satan Stole My Teddybear which reflects what the band's only album, Focus (1993), stands for in the Metal world : "To call this act 'technical' would be a cruel understatement; Focus sounds like three Dream Theater discs playing simultaneously, if John Petrucci had six arms and a four-neck guitar (okay that's not entirely fair - Cynic have TWO guitars). There are polyrhythms and time-changes shooting about everywhere, stabilized by a healthy jazz/fusion influence and an obvious understanding on how to blend these clashing styles into a coherent intellectual trip even the musical layman can appreciate". So here is the Cynic classic How Could I from a live performance from 2007 (in front of a rather small crowd) and also the brand new Evolutionary Sleeper which has the full potential of turning the Metal world upside down once again. Kudos to Paul Masvidal on guitars and Sean Reinert on drums. Update : This is the brutal one, Uroboric Forms, and the intricate one, Textures.