Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

about f-in time

Paul Wall + Chamillionaire reunion

Sunday, March 7, 2010

justice and fairness come apart

John Rawls has argued that Justice should be interpreted as "fairness." His work has come to dominate the entire shape of contemporary political philosophy, most of which assumes his framework as a starting point within which to debate the details.

Yet there are many circumstances where justice and fairness seem to come apart. For example, I recently ordered a book from an online bookseller and it arrived in dramatically different condition than I had imagined from the description (although the book was described as "near fine" and no defects listed, the binding was worn down to the cardboard on the spine and significantly chaffed around the cover). So I initiated a return through the online bookseller, although matters still have not been fully resolved.

In cases of a "misdescribed item," the online service's return policy mandates that the buyer is owed a refund for both the cost of the book and the initial shipping, though NOT the return shipping. This differs on the one hand for a book returned at the buyer's discretion, for which cost, but not shipping, will be refunded; and on the other from receipt of the incorrect book, in which case both original and return shipping will be refunded. Now, consider the case I find myself in—what would be the just outcome? Since the seller misdescribed the book, it seems obvious to me that the just outcome would be for him to refund both original and return shipping. However, unlike a case in which the wrong book is delivered, this is not an instance where the bookseller's error is obvious, rather there is possibility here for dispute and disagreement. In the absence of third party intervention, then, the online service's return policy seems fair since the overall loss (shipping back and forth) is split between the disputing parties. Here is a case where justice and fairness come apart.

Consider another example. At the start of the movie Kill Bill, Uma Thurman attacks one of the assassins who 4 years previously had executed her wedding party (including her betrothed and (she thinks) her unborn child). Her target acknowledges

"...You have every right to want to get even."

Yet Thurman clarifies a crucial difference between her intent and just what it would be mean for them to be even:

"Get even? Even Steven? I would have to kill you, go up to [your daughter's] room, kill her, then wait for your husband ... to come home and kill him. That would be even..., that would be about square."

Now, surely Thurman's rampage of revenge is, to some degree, about the extraction of justice from those who have wronged her. Here, evenness in the scales of justice / old testament / eye for an eye sense is contrasted with Thurman's actual, "rational," objective of killing only her former assailant. Is evenness fairness and Thurman's actual objective justice, or vice versa? Either way, the idea of a balanced distribution and the rational response to a violent wrongdoing clearly come apart here.

Apparently, neither the lawyers for online bookdealers, nor Quentin Tarantino, have read their Rawls. Thank God.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"mike bigga" = sellout

The passionate and innovative Atlanta rapper Killer Mike has apparently changed his name to, of all things, "Mike Bigga." This is particularly sad / ironic / hypocritical, given Mike's earlier comments on Nas' decision to drop the racial slur from his now "untitled" album:

"If my name had not been Killer Mike, my career would be a lot further now. I was told by people who wouldn't give me endorsements: 'We don't like your name,' but these same people gave endorsements to bands like The Killers. I don't know what separates one black man from being Killer Mike from five white men from being The Killers, but I would be more afraid of five killers than one. . . . "

"As a man, once I've made a decision, if I believe that decision is right and noble then I have to stand by that decision or I risk being not credible in front of people . . . I made my decision and I must stand by it."

Yes, Mike Bigga, formerly Killer Mike, you have indeed lost your credibility. You have left the ranks of rappers like Dead Prez, who refuse to compromise or submit to double standards, and joined the ranks of P-Diddy and the other effete sellouts who care only about their pockets.

Killer Mike, RIP - you will be missed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

the problem with hollywood

When pressed on the apparent anti-imperialist / environmentalist message of Avatar, James Cameron reportedly remarked, "It's not an Oliver Stone-style bludgeon-you-over-the-head political film but it does have a political subtext."

Subtext? The entire impetus for the (stereotypically insensitive) actions of the mining corporation is their single-minded lust for the (supposedly valuable and ridiculously named) "unobtainium," and this in turn drives the actions of our main characters. Effectively, Cameron admits that he treats the key motivating factor behind all the events in the film as mere "subtext." No wonder so little effort was put into motivating/explaining/presenting in a nuanced/realistic/or even remotely plausible way these actions.

Maybe when Hollywood realizes that motive is not meant to be left to subtext, but is rather the driving force behind any film: that which makes the characters plausible and sympathetic and allows the audience to suspend disbelief, maybe then we'll see something decent come out of Hollywood.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

the incredible growing man

Chapters 2 and 3 now available here.