Hungry Like The Wolf

I like hunting, but I need justification for ending a life, even the life of a small rodent. In my mind, there are two valid reasons for hunting: use (including meat, leather, other useful animal bits) and pest control. Killing an animal for a trophy or simply for the thrill seems extremely wasteful to me.

My father hunts foxes and coyotes, and this requires a different justification: competition. Since my father primarily hunts deer and small game, he is in direct competition with coyotes and foxes. He reasons that if he doesn’t kill the coyote, the coyote will kill the deer that he wants for himself. I don’t buy that as a justification for killing foxes or coyotes.

In the first place predators play an important role in population control. And population control, you may remember, is one of the reasons for hunting in the first place. My father wants all the deer to himself, but there are already too many deer. The deer population in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is so high that there are more deer-car collisions here than in almost any other state. So from a simple balanced ecosystem stand-point, we want more predators, not fewer.

My second (and more aesthetic) objection to hunting predators is that it doesn’t seem sporting. If I shoot a rabbit I eat it, but hunting is still primarily for sport; and shooting your competitors is simply not according to Hoyle. If killing the competing predators is acceptable, then is the next logical step shooting other hunters? Perhaps Dick Cheney wasn’t a terrible shot with atrocious gun-handling habits; he just wanted all of the game for himself.


Beer of the Week: DAB Original by Dortmunder Actien Brauerei: I thought that the “A” in “DAB” was for the word “aktion” (action); that’s why I have paired this beer with an action-packed hunting reading. However, the word is actually “actien” (joint-stock?). Oh well. The beer itself is good, but not remarkable. It is much better than comparable American macro-brews, but this German macro has its own mass-production stamped all over it.

Reading for the Week: War and Peace by Count Leo Tolstoy – Book Seven of War and Peace includes a grand wolf hunt. After the wolf is captured, the hunters move on to small game. The dogs in the hunt are worth entire villages and their owners are keen to test them against each other.

Question for the week: Given the cost of equipment, travel and time off work,how expensive is a pound of game meat really?


On the societal cost of a single act of non-piracy

Astute observers will have observed that every reading on this page is in the public domain (at least in some country.) In part this is to assure that if one of these short readings inspires a reader to delve further into the original text, it is readily available. It is also so that I don’t get into trouble for distributing copyrighted materials. But that is not much of a worry considering the fact that this is not a profitable website and there is not nearly enough traffic to attract any attention.

Additionally, most of the greatest works of all time are in the public domain, so why bother with anything else? In the 2 years since I’ve owned a Kindle, I have not once paid for a downloaded book. Amazon has so many free classics that it seems silly to buy anything else. So when I looked for Steinbeck books on Kindle, I was put out. It seems that the works of Mr. Steinbeck will not enter the public domain for another decade or so. So what am I to do?

One option is to buy a digital copy. But I don’t even have a credit card attached to my Amazon account because I NEVER BUY CONTENT. Another option is to illegally download a pirated digital copy. But that’d be illegal. The third option is to go to the library and check out the book I want (if it happens to be available.) Finally, I could buy a paper copy.

We’ll eliminate buying either the digital or paper copy because I am not made of money. Now which is better, to pirate a digital copy or to check out the book from the library? Pirating is illegal. That is, I think, the only negative aspect. It is malum prohibitum: wrong only because there is a rule against it. The argument that pirating robs from the artist is invalid since the artist doesn’t profit from me going to the library either (also the artist has been dead for nearly a half century now.) Going to the library and checking out the book has many more visible negative aspects than piracy does: the pollution and waste associated with driving to the library, the additional human labor required by library staff to re-shelf the book, etc., the inconvenience to others should they also happen to want the same book at the same time. These negatives are quite small, even to the point of being totally negligible, however, piracy has none of these downsides. Piracy, in this case, is probably better for society as a whole.

But it’s against the law, so I got a library card. Oh, and the library card is made of plastic, so add the associated pollution to the list of cons.

Beer of the Week: Efes Pilsner – This Turkish beer does not inspire a lot of hope. The malt is supplemented with rice and the beer is very light and nearly odorless. But for what it is, it really isn’t bad. Like so many other adjunct lagers, it’s rather sweet but one could certainly drink a lot of the stuff. (And no doubt, some Turks do drink a lot of it.)

Reading of the week: Well, I wanted to use Chapter 13, Section 1 of East of Eden by John Steinbeck for this week’s reading. It is an amazingly powerful indictment of collectivism and a bold claim that any religion, government or philosophy that undermines the concept of the free individual is an enemy to humanity itself. But East of Eden is still under copyright, so if you want to read it (and you should,) you’ll have to go to the library. Or you could do a google search for “East of Eden, Chapter 13 Josh Crain” and click on the first result. But don’t have any delusions about it, there is no reason to think that Mr. Crain has obtained the proper rights to reproduce this insanely beautiful (and I really cannot stress how amazing it is) piece of writing.

Question of the week: Steinbeck claims that every great creation is the work of a single mind. Collaboration is a phantom; in reality, one creates and the group then builds upon the creation of the individual. What does that mean for great artistic partnerships such as Lennon and McCarthy, Rogers and Hammerstein, or The Coen Brothers?

Charge of the Light Beer Brigade

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Tennyson’s classic poem Charge of the Light Brigade is actually a story of a failed military action. In short, there was an order that was misunderstood which resulted in a cavalry charge against a strong defensive position. Naturally, the Light Brigade was repelled and suffered heavy casualties. Because of the poem, the folly has gone down in history as a glorious exhibition of the honor and ability of the British cavalry. But just like military action itself, the claim that the charge was honorable is also easily shot down.

According to Tennyson, the soldiers “knew / Someone had blunder’d”. They were aware that this mission was suicidal and was impossible. The suicidal part I will not take issue with here. It may be possible to make a rational decision to give up your life for the sake of your country or to achieve a “higher goal.” (The fact that we balk at the idea of suicide bombers and kamikaze pilots may induce us to seriously question whether it actually is possible to make that choice rationally, but that is not the issue here.) Tennyson tells us that “Theirs is not to reason why, / Theirs is but to do and die”. When they enlisted in the Light Brigade, they apparently signed away their rational faculties. The very thing that makes us human is our reason, and it is their very humanity that they gave up when they agreed to relinquish their ability to think.

One will readily argue that it is necessary for soldiers to give up their will and reason to their superiors if anything is to be accomplished. If soldiers are constantly questioning their superiors and failing to obey with alacrity, they put themselves and others at risk. Although it is true that soldiers must trust each other and their superiors and act in the faith that their orders are reasonable, they cannot simply follow without exercising their reason. In an ideal case, they have good reason to believe that their orders have been made by competent superiors who are better informed than they are. Blindly following orders in this case is a rational decision.   But the Light Brigade knew that something was wrong, that order could not have been made by a well-informed, rational superior:  “Someone had blunder’d.” If the act is not rational, how can it be honorable? French Marshal Pierre Bosquet famously said, “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie.” [It is magnificant, but it is not war: it is madness.]

Yet Tennyson tells us to “Honor the charge they made”. Should we really be expected to honor madness?

Beer of the Week: Budějovický Budvar – Just as Pilsener originally meant “beer from Pilzen,” Budweiser once meant “beer from Budweis.” The people at the Budweiser Budvar Brewing Company still claim that is the only legitimate meaning of the word. As such, they have been battling with Anheuser-Busch in courts all over the globe in an attempt to secure the international trademark. This has met with limited success. Budějovický Budvar, according to their website, is not the brewery’s signature Budweiser Premium Lager, but their less alcoholic session beer, “ideal for those occasions when it is evident in advance that you will not finish with just one beer.” If that was their goal, they have not done a bad job. The beer has good hops on the nose and a decent lingering (although a little sour) finish, but is still light enough to make it go down quick. Better flavor than the A-B Budweiser, but about the same in terms of body and ability to be consumed in large quantities.

Reading of the week: Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson – Regardless of the philosophical implications of glorifying the tremendous error that resulted in the death, injury, or capture of so many men, this poem really does get the blood pumping. Although if you hear a recording of Tennyson reading it himself, it is more creepy than inspiring. (But what can you expect from a 120 year-old recording on wax?)

Question of the week: If one can rationally point out what an awful mistake the charge was, why is it still so captivating?