Friday Four

Friday, May 18, 2012

1. Mrs. Van Horn and I sometimes enjoy brunch at a nearby Marriott Hotel, whose restaurant, with its numerous large-screen televisions, doubles as a sports bar. She suggested the restaurant as a place for her Mother's Day brunch.

Why? Because she knows that I am an avid soccer fan. Not only was it Mother's Day, it was Survival Sunday, the last day of the English Premier League season, with all the games being played at once and broadcast live. The most interesting game was between Queen's Park Rangers, who faced possible relegation if they lost, and Manchester City, who would win the league championship if they won. That game finished with a dramatic, injury-time win by City.

Jerry Hinnen of CBS News translates the significance of this result for the benefit of Americans more accustomed to other sports. Here's his football metaphor for the "American Equivalent":

The Minnesota Vikings are facing the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, somehow[. A]fter going up 21-7 at halftime[, they] now trail the Packers 33-21 with only a minute remaining. The Vikings drive, score a touchdown, recover the onsides kick, and on the final play of the game connect on a Hail Mary from midfield to win their first Super Bowl.
The icing on the cake for me came in the form of another result, Arsenal's 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion. That meant that Sunday was also St. Totteringham's Day, and that Arsenal overcame its slow (and very ugly) 2-1-4 start to place third and secure a Champion's League berth next season.

2. Some time back, I enjoyed reading this account of how an enterprising young man earned $65,000 repairing iPods while he was in high school.

3. Mathematical modeling vs. common sense? Not quite, but this title sure makes it seem so: "What the U.S. needs is an 18-cent coin." Following a link, I see that there is actually some interesting commentary on the advantages of the coin system used in the U.S.

4. Now that I have learned how expensive tattoos are, I am even more perplexed by their current popularity than I was to begin with: "A full sleeve can take 40 hours [at $150 per hour]." Removal will also cost about $6,000.

-- CAV


: Corrected a typo.


Jennifer Snow said...


Gus Van Horn said...



Anonymous said...

I have to admit to some confusion as to why Objectivists dislike tattoos. A rationally-chosen tattoo is a rational, intentional modification of one's body to fit with one's standards of aesthetics. In the essentials, this is no different from, for example, shaving--humans naturally have hair in various places, and it's only through concious effort that we can alter that. I can agree that some tattoos are absurd and some even grotesque, but I'm not convinced that tattoos as such are necessarily a bad thing.

I realize that this post didn't say that they were, but it's a sentiment that I've heard other Objectivists express and I was curious as to your thoughts on the matter.

Gus Van Horn said...


You come to within a hair's breadth of answering your own question, at least in part, when you observe that a "rationally-chosen tattoo is a rational, intentional modification of one's body to fit with one's standards of aesthetics".

Have you seen the poor aesthetic standards of most tattoo-wearers? The short-range mentality? The second-handedness? (Just how daring or original can a "tramp stamp" be? And what of the blatant exhibitionism of so many other wearers?) Speaking for myself, I don't care to dwell on how screwed up too many people are today, but tattoos force me to think about it anyway. That's why I don't care for them. Other Objectivists may have other reasons.

Since personal fashion is a form of non-verbal communication, even if I wanted a tattoo, I'd consider having it in an easily-concealed location so as not to inadvertently convey the impression that I have a similar mentality to such people. (This consideration is no more second-handed than wearing a suit to work, shaving in the morning, or using deodorant.)

There are things about one's appearance that one can control, and whether to have a tattoo is one of them. People who get them should not be surprised when people see them, consider the obvious question (Why?), and draw their own conclusions.


Dismuke said...

Anonymous - here is what I see as the issue with tattoos. I don't think that anyone can deny that some tattoos, in and of themselves, are really impressive works of art.

The problem isn't so much the tattoo but rather the choice of canvas.

There are, perhaps, some practitioners of graffiti whose work is incredibly talented, perhaps to the level of being art. But if you were to put such a work over the wall of a building that is an architectural masterpiece - well, it becomes aesthetic vandalism. Such a building is special, an aesthetic end in and of itself - and now it is being subordinated to some other end.

I hold that people should regard their own bodies as being profoundly special even if one will never be asked to model. You ought to regard your particular body as being special on grounds that YOU are incredibly and irreplaceably special.

There is certainly nothing wrong with aesthetically enhancing one's body - indeed, if one regards one's self as special, one should have some level of concern for the aesthetics of one's appearance. But, here, as in other areas, the standard ought to be form follows function.

The example of shaving is not a good one in this context. People already have hair. It has to be worn at SOME length and in SOME sort of manner. The applicable form follows function standard would be to wear it in a way that best enhances or accentuates your natural features.

A better example is makeup which is closer in that it is an unnatural application of a foreign substance to the body - a sort of "paint." Again, form follows function. Ladies who look best in makeup are the ones who use it to enhance and/or emphasize what is already there. To the degree that it goes beyond that, it becomes gaudy, or freakish or slutty or costume like.

Makeup and hair styles are not ends in and of themselves - they are a means to a larger aesthetic end of enhancing and accentuating what nature gave you. Tattoos are different - they are mini works of art (the quality of which ranges from trite to brilliant) and, as such, are aesthetic ends unto themselves. And this ends up resulting in what I consider to be an aesthetic inversion - suddenly, the person wearing the tattoo becomes but a means towards a very different aesthetic end.

A person's body should be an aesthetic end unto itself - not a mere canvas for some other aesthetic end no matter how talented it might be.

Finally, tattoos are permanent. As you grow older, your aesthetic tastes and standards WILL evolve. There are things that you are indifferent to or unaware of today that you will develop an appreciation and perhaps even a passion for in the future. And your values will evolve over time.

Consider people who are now in their 60s who go around trying to look like they did back in the late 1960s - just go to any Leftist protest and you will find some. Back in the '60s they looked trendy in a nasty sort of way. Today, they just look pathetic.

One of the few benefits of growing older (besides, of course, it being better the alternative!) is the enjoyment you get from the evolution and greater nuance of your aesthetic and intellectual interests. A tattoo locks in your tastes of the moment FOR LIFE. That is the biggest reason in the world not to get one.

Your tastes WILL change as you get older. Your hierarchy of values WILL evolve over time as you mature, get involved with a career, start a family, etc. Don't forever lock yourself into a mere fancy of the moment on something as intimate and profoundly important as your own body. It is one thing to wear unusual looking makeup, jewelry and clothing to reflect one's interests of the moment. But makeup can be washed off and clothes and jewelry can be removed. You can't do that as easily with a tattoo - as countless people who have paid good money in an attempt to get them removed have learned.

Gus Van Horn said...


You make several very good points.

Now that I reconsider in light of your comments, I think it's the permanence of tattoos, coupled with the transitory nature of personal tastes over a lifetime (or triteness) that screams, "short-range mentality" to me.

Thanks for helping me further clarify my own thinking on the subject.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

No discussion of tattoos and their ephemeral appeal is complete without Heywood Banks' "Teenie Tiny Tattoo Song."

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

I'll say.

Jim May said...

Side note: I was amused to be reading through Dismuke's comment thinking "This reads like Dismuke wrote it" before I saw the byline :)

My dislike of tattoos is similar to my dislike of cigarettes: they have had a very strong association to negative things over my lifetime, even though there is no necessary such connection.

For cigarettes, they were a telltalle sign of the conformists at my high school. To this day, when I see smokers my age or younger, I know that at least at one point in their lives -- the moment they decided to smoke -- they were second-handers. It's summed up by one word in my mind: "sucker".

Tattoos became prevalent during my 20's (or at least that's when I noticed them spreading beyond tough guys and bikers), and for me the negative association is that of tribalism. Tattoos are very tribal in their history, they often signify fealty to some tribe or another, and often have explicitly tribal motifs. They make me think of savages running amuck in 21st century cities.

In each case, that negative connection comes from my own experience, not from anything inherently conformist or tribal in either smoking or tattoos. I don't conclude things about people on this basis; they are evidence of such, not proof, and would not necessarily carry those connotations in a much healthier culture.

Gus Van Horn said...


I think the negative associations you have with tattoos, which I share (in addition to associating them with rednecks) also factor in to why I dislike them.

Your last paragraph is good, too. While tattoos don't make an open-and-shut case that somebody is a second-hander or a sucker, they are evidence in that direction.