Friday, December 02, 2005

Camille Paglia, Guns, & Water

I know she's a nut, but I love Camille Paglia. I rarely agree with her, but I love her just the same. I know two entries in the same week in my ongoing series of "I read so you don't have to" is a bit much, but I recommend you go over there and check out her essay on Madonna. Though she doesn't address it directly, she goes a long way to explaining what the fuck is wrong with "Hung Up," a song whose popularity can only lead one to shake her head and marvel at the wonders of Payola. There is just no reason that song is popular except that her record company is paying for it to be popular. Frankly, Madonna hasn't had a good song since "Ray of Light," and even that song suffers unless it's a sunny day and you have the car. But I love how Paglia writes because she knows how to instill all her subjects with real weight. And I love her because I suspect she's our own true heir to Nietzsche. One cannot read either of them without marveling at their fierce madness and their love of tendencies most of us work to suppress. Her role model is Keith Richards. I guess I'm too young to understand what kind of role model Richards might be, though I appreciate his willingness to forgo purses or pockets and instead tying things in his hair. But I think she loves his voracious appetite. I can respect that. Anyway, reading her writing on something as inconsequential as Madonna's latest album has me wishing once again I knew how to talk about what I saw on TV the other day. The guys from Mythbusters were shooting at ballistics gel submerged in a swimming pool. I wasn't really paying any attention. I just had it on for background noise while I was afghaning. The first gun they shot was some old Civil War era thingy and, though it failed to hit the gel at various distances, they were picking up whole bullets (shells, whatever) off the bottom of the pool. But then they started shooting "hypersonic" guns. I don't know what these are, but they're big and scary looking. They even had one that could pierce bulletproof glass. And you know what happened? Every time the bullets hit the water, they shattered. I guess shattered*, since they were pulling shards of metal off the bottom of the pool. As they explained it, it's because the bullets are moving so fast and the water slows them down so quickly that the bullet basically tears itself apart as it decelerates into the water. Seeing this made me really happy, and deeply delighted with physics. And this is what I didn't quite know how to talk about. But when they slowed the footage down and showed the bullet going from one whole fast piece of metal to tiny pieces gently falling over the top of the ballistics gel and the bottom of the pool, it almost felt like art, like some meditation on the ways in which our most sophisticated machines fail in the face of nature. Or on how sometimes speed and power isn't everything. It was surprising. It made me consider both the gun and water in new ways. But what's cool about it is that such failure is not unpredictable. I was surprised to see it, but what physicist would have been? Which made me a little jealous of physicists. In general, I don't like science because there's too much math, but I make an exception for Physics**, which is really the artsiest of sciences, a field that requires a comfort with the as-of-yet unexplainable, and a field that requires a deep abiding love of metaphor. How can a girl not love a field that says "It's like this. Say that the tiniest things in the universe were little strings of energy..."? Anyone who loves good storytellers has to love physicists****. Anyway, water. It's pretty amazing. And, apparently, hiding just a couple of feet under the surface will protect you from snipers. *Ha, I lack the vocabulary to even talk about this. But tough shit for you, you're already this far. **And the math that goes into Excel spreadsheets. Is there anything more satisfying than finally getting one of those fuckers to work?*** ***Could I be any more prone to hyperbole? I doubt it. ****But love them from afar, lest they try to bore you to death with all their talk of fermions and intrinsic angular momentum and the Wigner-d'Espag... whoo, put myself to sleep even trying to warn you about it.


Blogger Blake Wylie said...

I saw "guns" in the subject line, so I had to stop by. :P

12/02/2005 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

I hate to burst your bubble, but physics is all mathmatics.

12/02/2005 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Clearly it isn't all spelling.

12/02/2005 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

Exador, there is a gentle sort of poetry to physics, too. Mathematics is the "how". Poetry is the "why".

And I love Camille Paglia. Once again demonstrating how B and I are the two faces of Janus--since I almost always agree with everything Paglia says.

12/02/2005 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

Sadly, yes. Physics left me with little time for pedestrian things as spelling, or a FRAT.

Unlike some people I know

12/02/2005 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

I'm sure there were frats for the physics geeks. You just weren't invited to join them.

It must suck to live in a filthy hovel and realize that Sidney, Jugdish, Mohammed and pals didn't want you in their nerd club.

The password is: enikrik

12/02/2005 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Exador said...

Hey my Hovel is clean. I spent last night cleaning it up, but that's a post a for my blog.

Those were the only three girls in the Physics department. Everybody wanted in on that action.

12/02/2005 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Aw, Blake, I hope you're not disappointed that there wasn't any crazy liberal rant against them.

Kat, Janus? How about I be Castor and you be Pollux? Isn't that more fitting?

12/02/2005 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

That works. It does make more sense. Although I do prefer to think of us as The God of Beginnings instead of the spawn of bird rape.

12/02/2005 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

Oh, and I forgot to say that I love Excel spreadsheets so much that I actually do them up as a hobby.

So, yet again...

12/02/2005 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Well, true. Who wants have to go through high school with Helen or have to learn how to spell Clytemnestra? But, I thought it was fitting, with the birthdays and all.

I love Excel. I find it very satisfying. If there were a way to combine Excel, theoretical physics, and a cute, hairy biker who adored me, I'd settle down.

12/02/2005 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger bridgett said...

Clytemnestra...damn, woman, I love it when you talk dirty.

12/02/2005 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

. If there were a way to combine Excel, theoretical physics, and a cute, hairy biker who adored me, I'd settle down.

You have just described my marriage. Which is creepy. Except I don't think you maybe meant THAT kind of "biker".

12/02/2005 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Allow me defend all those feckless schleps who like "Hung Up." I have to do so sheepishly, however, because I think Madonna is completely lame and I generally don't like anything she does or says. And it's quite likely that the song sucks, but for some reason, I dig it. I dig it with the same disinterested ferocity (yes, there is such a thing) as I dig Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" song. There's a catchy groove to it that won't convert you to a fan, but will make you hum the damn thing for weeks at a time.

Fuck Madonna and her focus group-engineered music to make it stick in my mind and think I like it!

Also, Camille Paglia really, truly is a nut, but I too have a morbid fascination with everything she writes. Isn't she delightfully self-important (did you catch all the I predicted this would happen back in 1988 and I was totally defending disco before it was cool?) and self-referential?

12/02/2005 07:41:00 PM  

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