Se é que pretendem ter graça

«La ironía y el humor forman esencialmente el pensamiento de la ley. Se  ejercen en vinculación con la ley y encuentran su sentido en relación con ella. (…)

…la ley hace posible al tirano. El tirano habla el lenguaje de las leyes y no tiene otro lenguaje.

– Deleuze, “Sacher-Masoch”.

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O documentário “O Riso dos Outros” mergulha no mundo da stand-up comedy, para debater, de forma dialéctica, o limite entre a piada normalmente aceite e aquela que é censurável por ser ofensiva. Mas, ao contrário do que se parece querer transmitir, esta não é uma alternativa entre um campo sujeito a normas e outro supostamente sem normas. Em vez disso, a actividade do comediante encontra-se sob pressão de duas normatividades, duas Leis: a lei do hábito que enraiza os preconceitos sociais e a lei escrita do poder judicial que busca sancionar e moralizar a primeira. Qual delas a pior? Venha o Diabo e escolha!

É preciso que se faça norma de uma contra-norma que preceitue aos comediantes que se mantenham equidistantes de toda e qualquer normatividade – em especial, daquelas duas normatividades -, e não poupem nenhuma, não tomem partido por nenhuma. Se é que pretendem ter “graça”…

Certa vez, fui encarregue de gerir um portal de milhares de anedotas. Devo confessar que a grande maioria não eram capazes de me fazer rir. Fáceis e banais por demais. Há gente que acha que, para ser engraçado, basta bater no ceguinho. Tenho os meus comediantes de eleição. Por exemplo, Erasmo de Roterdão (“Elogio da Loucura”, um dos livros mais cómicos que já li), Kafka (“Never has there been a more comic and joyous author from the point of view of desire“), Roberto Benigni (só um louco para fazer do Holocausto uma comédia), Larry David (um humorista que ri em primeiro lugar de si próprio), Lars Von Trier e Kiarostami (dois autores de cinema “sério” extremamente hilário)… É um facto que tendo a preferir o humor dito “judaico”, composto por aquelas piadas de várias camadas concebidas para atingir diferentes graus de agudeza de espírito, e cada pessoa ri, mesmo sem se aperceber, de coisas diferentes. O povo judeu teve um treino de milénios face à censura pela Lei, o que os tornou peritos em romans à clef, ou, neste caso, piadas com subterfúgios. Parecem bolos de casamento estas piadas e nem todos chegam ao sabor da cereja no topo do bolo. (Também há aqueles que nem sequer percebem a piada, mas são capazes de rir mecanicamente das anedotas do costume. Deve ser por isso que interromperam a transmissão da série do Larry David por cá…).

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“O Riso dos Outros” (2012), documentário dirigido por Pedro Arantes.

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o_consolo_do_prisioneiro

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«La vie n’est pas objet de jugement, la vie n’est pas jugeable, la seule manière par laquelle vous puissiez la faire passer en jugement c’est d’abord lui inoculer la tristesse. Et bien sûr on rit, je veux dire que le tyran peut rire, le prêtre rit, mais dit Spinoza dans une page que je trouve très belle, son rire c’est celui de la satire, et le rire de la satire c’est un mauvais rire. Pourquoi? Parce que c’est le rire qui communique la tristesse; On peut se moquer de la nature, le rire de la satire c’est lorsque je me moque des hommes. Je fais de l’ironie. L’espèce d’ironie grinçante, je me moque des hommes… La satire c’est une autre manière de dire que la nature humaine est misérable. Ah, voyez! Quelle misère, la nature humaine! C’est la proposition du jugement moral: ah! quelle misère la nature humaine! Ça peut être l’objet d’un prêche ou l’objet d’une satire. Et Spinoza, dans des textes très beaux, dit: “Justement ce que j’appelle une Éthique, c’est le contraire de la satire.”

Et pourtant il y a des pages très comiques dans l’Éthique de Spinoza, mais ce n’est pas du tout le même rire. Quand Spinoza rit, c’est sur le mode: Oh ! regardez celui-là, de quoi il est capable! ho ho! ça alors, on a jamais vu ça! Ça peut être une vilenie atroce, fallait le faire, aller jusque là. Ce n’est jamais un rire de satire, ce n’est jamais “voyez comme notre Nature est misérable!” Ce n’est pas le rire de l’ironie. C’est un type de rire complètement différent. Je dirais que c’est beaucoup plus l’humour juif. C’est très spinoziste ça, c’est vas-y, encore un pas de plus, ça j’aurais jamais cru qu’on aurait pu le faire! C’est une espèce de rire très particulier et Spinoza est un des auteurs les plus gais du monde. Je crois, en effet, que tout ce qu’il déteste c’est ce que la religion a conçu comme satire de la nature humaine. Le tyran, l’homme de la religion, ils font des satires, c’est-à-dire que, avant tout ils dénoncent la nature humaine comme misérable puisque il s’agit, avant tout, de la faire passer en jugement. Et, dès lors, il y a une complicité, et c’est ça l’intuition de Spinoza: il y a une complicité du tyran de l’esclave et du prêtre. Pourquoi ? Parce que l’esclave c’est celui qui se sent d’autant mieux que tout va mal. Plus que ça va mal, plus qu’il est content. C’est ça le mode d’existence de l’esclave! L’esclave, quelle que soit la situation, il faut toujours qu’il voit le côté moche. Le truc moche-là. Il y a des gens qui ont du génie pour ça: c’est ça les esclaves. Ça peut être un tableau, ça peut être une scène dans la rue, il y a des gens qui ont du génie pour ça. Il y a un génie de l’esclave et en même temps, c’est le bouffon. L’esclave et le bouffon. Dostoïevski a écrit des pages très profondes sur l’unité de l’esclave et du bouffon, et du tyran, ils sont tyranniques ces types-là, ils s’accrochent, ils ne vous lâchent pas… Ils ne cessent pas de vous mettre le nez dans une merde quelconque. Ils ne sont pas contents, il faut toujours qu’ils abaissent les trucs. Ce n’est pas que les trucs soient forcement hauts, mais il faut toujours qu’ils abaissent, c’est toujours trop haut. Il faut toujours qu’ils trouvent une petite ignominie, une ignominie dans l’ignominie, là ils deviennent roses de joie, plus que c’est dégueulasse plus qu’ils sont contents. Ils ne vivent que comme ça; ça c’est l’esclave! Et c’est aussi l’homme du remord et c’est aussi l’homme de la satire, c’est tout ça.

Et c’est à ça que Spinoza oppose la conception d’un homme fort un homme puissant, dont le rire n’est pas le même. C’est une espèce de rire très bienveillant, le rire de l’homme dit libre ou fort. Il dit : “Si c’est ça que tu veux, alors va y ! c’est rigolo, oui c’est rigolo!” C’est le contraire de la satire. C’est le rire éthique!»

– Deleuze, Cours sur Spinoza, 09/12/1980.

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«L’humour juif contre l’ironie grecque, l’humour Job contre l’ironie Œdipe, l’humour insulaire contre l’ironie continentale, l’humour stoïcien contre l’ironie platonicienne, l’humour zen contre l’ironie bouddhique, l’humour Proust contre l’ironie Gide (…).»

– Deleuze, “Entretiens”.

Woods as managers of temperate climate

«George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882) certainly had a varied career. Here’s how Clark University in Massachusetts, which has named an institute in his memory, describes him:

Throughout his 80 years Marsh had many careers as a lawyer (though, by his own words, “an indifferent practitioner”), newspaper editor, sheep farmer, mill owner, lecturer, politician and diplomat. He also tried his hand at various businesses, but failed miserably in all – marble quarrying, railroad investment and woolen manufacturing. He studied linguistics, knew 20 languages, wrote a definitive book on the origin of the English language, and was known as the foremost Scandinavian scholar in North America. He invented tools and designed buildings including the Washington Monument. As a congressman in Washington (1843-49) Marsh helped to found and guide the Smithsonian Institution. He served as US Minister to Turkey for five years where he aided revolutionary refugees and advocated for religious freedom. He spent the last 21 years of his life (1861-82) as US Minister to the newly United Kingdom of Italy.

In other words, he kept himself busy. But I would argue his defining moment came on 30 September, 1847, when, as a congressman for the Whig party (a forerunner of the Republican party), he gave a lecture to the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont. (The speech was published a year later.) It proved to be the intellectual spark that led him to go on and publish in 1864 his best-known work, Man and Nature: Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action.

More than 160 years on, it really does pay to re-read his speech as it seems remarkably prescient today. It also shows that he was decades ahead of most other thinkers on this subject. After all, he delivered his lecture a decade or more before John Tyndall began to explore the thesis that slight changes in the atmosphere’s composition could cause climatic variations. And it was a full half a century before Svante Arrhenius proposed that carbon dioxide emitted by the “enormous combustion of coal by our industrial establishments” might warm the world (something he thought would be beneficial). (…)

Man cannot at his pleasure command the rain and the sunshine, the wind and frost and snow, yet it is certain that climate itself has in many instances been gradually changed and ameliorated or deteriorated by human action. The draining of swamps and the clearing of forests perceptibly effect the evaporation from the earth, and of course the mean quantity of moisture suspended in the air. The same causes modify the electrical condition of the atmosphere and the power of the surface to reflect, absorb and radiate the rays of the sun, and consequently influence the distribution of light and heat, and the force and direction of the winds. Within narrow limits too, domestic fires and artificial structures create and diffuse increased warmth, to an extent that may effect vegetation. The mean temperature of London is a degree or two higher than that of the surrounding country, and Pallas believed, that the climate of even so thinly a peopled country as Russia was sensibly modified by similar causes. (…)

You can see him grappling with concepts that we now know as the urban heat island effect and greenhouse effect. (…)

As the Clark University biography notes, he wasn’t an environmental sentimentalist. Rather, he believed that all consumption must be reasoned and considered, with the impact on future generations always kept in mind: he was making the case for what we now call “sustainable development”. In particular, he argued that his audience should re-evaluate the worth of trees: (…)

The functions of the forest, besides supplying timber and fuel, are very various. The conducting powers of trees render them highly useful in restoring the disturbed equilibrium of the electric fluid; they are of great value in sheltering and protecting more tender vegetables against the destructive effects of bleak or parching winds, and the annual deposit of the foliage of deciduous trees, and the decomposition of their decaying trunks, form an accumulation of vegetable mould, which gives the greatest fertility to the often originally barren soils on which they grow, and enriches lower grounds by the wash from rains and the melting snows.
The inconveniences resulting from a want of foresight in the economy of the forest are already severely felt in many parts of New England, and even in some of the older towns in Vermont. Steep hill-sides and rocky ledges are well suited to the permanent growth of wood, but when in the rage for improvement they are improvidently stripped of this protection, the action of sun and wind and rain soon deprives them of their thin coating of vegetable mould, and this, when exhausted, cannot be restored by ordinary husbandry. They remain therefore barren and unsightly blots, producing neither grain nor grass, and yielding no crop but a harvest of noxious weeds, to infest with their scattered seeds the richer arable grounds below.
But this is by no means the only evil resulting from the injudicious destruction of the woods. Forests serve as reservoirs and equalizers of humidity. In wet seasons, the decayed leaves and spongy soil of woodlands retain a large proportion of the falling rains, and give back the moisture in time of drought, by evaporation or through the medium of springs. They thus both check the sudden flow of water from the surface into the streams and low grounds, and prevent the droughts of summer from parching our pastures and drying up the rivulets which water them.
On the other hand, where too large a proportion of the surface is bared of wood, the action of the summer sun and wind scorches the hills which are no longer shaded or sheltered by trees, the springs and rivulets that found their supply in the bibulous soil of the forest disappear, and the farmer is obliged to surrender his meadows to his cattle, which can no longer find food in his pastures, and sometime even to drive them miles for water.
Again, the vernal and autumnal rains, and the melting snows of winter, no longer intercepted and absorbed by the leaves or the open soil of the woods, but falling everywhere upon a comparatively hard and even surface, flow swiftly over the smooth ground, washing away the vegetable mould as they seek their natural outlets, fill every ravine with a torrent, and convert every river into an ocean. The suddenness and violence of our freshets increases in proportion as the soil is cleared; bridges are washed away, meadows swept of their crops and fences, and covered with barren sand, or themselves abraded by the fury of the current, and there is reason to fear that the valleys of many of our streams will soon be converted from smiling meadows into broad wastes of shingle and gravel and pebbles, deserts in summer, and seas in autumn and spring. (…)
If the present value of timber and land will not justify the artificial re-planting of grounds injudiciously cleared, at least nature ought to be allowed to reclothe them with a spontaneous growth of wood, and in our future husbandry a more careful selection should be made of land for permanent improvement. It has long been a practice in many parts of Europe, as well as in our older settlements, to cut the forests reserved for timber and fuel at stated intervals. It is quite time that this practice should be introduced among us.
After the first felling of the original forest it is indeed a long time before its place is supplied, because the roots of old and full grown trees seldom throw up shoots, but when the second growth is once established, it may be cut with great advantage, at periods of about twenty-five years, and yields a material, in every respect but size, far superior to the wood of the primitive tree. In many European countries, the economy of the forest is regulated by law; but here, where public opinion determines, or rather in practice constitutes law, we can only appeal to an enlightened self-interest to introduce the reforms, check the abuses, and preserve us from an increase of the evils I have mentioned.

Just three years later, Lincoln approved the legislation which would lead to the creation of Yosemite National Park in California. This acted as a precedent across the world for federal and state governments to purchase or secure wilderness areas so they could be protected in perpetuity from development or exploitation.»

– “The 1847 lecture that predicted human-induced climate change, “The Guardian, Monday 20 June 2011.

The light follower has a cold and dark brain


Marcus Byrne: The dance of the dung beetle

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«Daytime species use the sun as a compass. Sunlight is highly polarized; it shines through the atmosphere in a particular pattern, and dung beetles, like many insects (but not humans), have specialized photoreceptors in their eyes that detect it. When a dung beetle hits a bump or rolls off course, he climbs up onto his ball and spins in a circle, to read the polarization pattern in the sky and regain his bearings. “It’s like if you’re trying to use a map and the map gets blown out of your hands, you have to pick it up and reorient yourself,” Warrant said.

In 2003, Dacke, Warrant, and others discovered that nocturnal dung beetles can navigate by the polarized light of the moon—the first animal shown to do so, although many probably can, Warrant said. “But we noticed that on many nights the moon didn’t come up until much later,” he said. “Yet our beetles kept on rolling in straight lines—not quite as straight, but pretty straight.” (…)

To test their idea, they built a circular, wooden table several feet in diameter, with a moat around the edge to catch beetles when they fell off. A high wall around the perimeter, lined with black cloth, blocked the view of trees and other potential landmarks. One by one, a beetle and his dung ball would be placed in the middle of the arena and timed to see how long it took him to reach the edge. This was all done in the dark. “They were completely unobserved,” Byrne said. “It was pretty weird. We’d release them, then you’d hear their footsteps pattering across the woodwork, then they’d fall into the trough with a thump.”

The trip could take as little as twenty seconds, if a beetle went straight, or as long as several minutes, if it went in torturous circles. The beetles were quickest when they had an open view of the starry sky. When the scientists put tiny black, cardboard hats on the beetles, to block their overhead view, the insects meandered hopelessly. “It took them a long, long time,” Warrant said. (When the beetles wore clear plastic hats, they rolled straight.) Then the researchers moved the arena to a planetarium, where they could control the contents of the sky. Sure enough, when only the eighteen brightest stars were turned on, the beetles couldn’t navigate in a straight line. But when all the stars were turned off, and only the fuzzy stripe of the Milky Way remained, the beetles were quick and direct. (…)

Dung beetles are ideal experimental subjects, Byrne said: “They are so tenacious in what they are trying to do. They cannot be distracted, they don’t get frightened, they don’t change their minds, they don’t get stage fright. They are so, so, so determined. If you set up your experiment correctly to get a yes or no answer, you will get an answer.” There are plenty more mysteries to explore, like how exactly the orienteering dance works. (…)

One wonders, then, what will happen as the night sky disappears. Thanks to sky glow, ten per cent of the world, and forty per cent of Americans, no longer view a night sky that is fully dark. This troubles ecologists as well as astronomers. A paper published in 2011 by Christpher Kyba, a physicist at Free University, in Berlin, found that light pollution washes out the polarization of moonlight, which could have a detrimental effect on dung beetles and other insects, at least around urban areas

– “Dung Beetles, Dancing to the Milky Way“, The New Yorker, January 27, 2013.

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«Despite having tiny brains, dung beetles are surprisingly decent navigators, able to follow straight paths as they roll poo balls they’ve collected away from a dung source. But it seems the insects’ abilities are more remarkable than previously believed. Like ancient seafarers, dung beetles can navigate using the starry sky and the glow from the Milky Way, new research shows.

“This is the first time where we see animals using the Milky Way for orientation,” said lead researcher Marie Dacke, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden. “It’s also the first time we see that insects can use the stars.”

After locating a fresh pile of feces, dung beetles will often collect and roll away a large piece of spherical dung. Last year, Dacke and her colleagues discovered the beetles climb on their dung balls and dance around in circles before taking off. This dance is not one of joy, however; the insects are checking out the sky to get their bearings.

The dorsal (upper) parts of the dung beetles’ eyes are specialized to be able to analyze the direction of light polarization — the direction that light vibrates in,” Dacke told LiveScience. So when a beetle looks up, it’s taking in the sun, the moon and the pattern of ambient polarized light. These celestial cues help the beetle avoid accidentally circling back to the poo pile, where other beetles may try to steal its food, Dacke said. [Photos of Dung Beetles Dancing on Poop Balls]

In addition to these cues, Dacke and her team wondered if dung beetles can use stars for navigation, just as birds, seals and humans do. After all, they reasoned, dung beetles can somehow keep straight on clear, moonless nights.

To find out, the researchers timed how long dung beetles of the species Scarabaeus satyrus took to cross a circular arena with high walls blocking views of treetops and other landmarks. They tested the insects in South Africa under a moonlit sky, a moonless sky and an overcast sky. In some trials, the beetles were fitted with cardboard caps, which kept their eyes to the ground. Overall, the beetles had a difficult time traveling straight and took significantly longer to cross the arena if caps or clouds obstructed their view of the sky.

Researchers fitted some dung beetles with cardboard caps to keep their eyes on the ground, finding they had more difficulty navigating a circular arena when their view of the sky was blocked.

From the experiments, “we thought that they could be using the stars [for orientation], but dung beetles have such small eyes that they don’t have the resolution, or sensitivity, to see individual stars,” Dacke said.

So the researchers moved their setup into a planetarium to tease out the information the beetles were extracting from the starry sky. They repeated the experiment under several different conditions, such as showing only the brightest stars, showing only the diffuse band of the Milky Way and showing the complete starry sky. The beetles took about the same amount of time to cross the arena when only the Milky Way was visible as when they could see a full star-filled sky. And they were slower to cross under all other conditions.

Previous experiments showed another dung beetle, S. zambesianus, is unable to roll along straight tracks on moonless nights when Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way, lies below the horizon, Dacke noted. Taken together, these results suggest dung beetles navigate using the gradient of light provided by the Milky Way. However, this technique would only work for beetles living in regions where the Milky Way is distinct. “What they are doing in the Northern Hemisphere [of Earth], I don’t know,” she said.

The researchers are now trying to determine the relative importance of the different sky cues dung beetles use. “If they have the moon, polarized light and the Milky Way, will they use all cues equally?” Dacke said.

The research is published online today (Jan. 24) in the journal Current Biology.»

Source

Lights have a remarkable vacuum effect

«From amoeba to human, nearly all living things run on an internal clock, a circadian rhythm that regulates our respective business over a 24-hour period. (…) The clock mandates rest, too; there’s a time to close, to be silent, to sink into the murky depths and hide. Day, and night, are inscribed in us.

But what if night stops coming, if daylight lasts all day? Stargazers already are seeing it. The illumination from streetlights and other artificial night lighting is now so persistently bright that 10 percent of the world’s population, and 40 percent of Americans, no longer view a night sky that the human eye perceives as fully dark. It’s a scientific loss for astronomers and a psychic one for the rest of us.

More and more, ecologists are finding that this false light also takes a toll on the natural world. Every year, night-migrating birds collide with bright buildings by the millions. Field studies have shown that artificial light changes the spawning times of certain species of coral and fish whose reproductive cycle depends on a lunar clock. It washes out the mating signals flashed by fireflies. One scientist found that a group of tree frogs halted their mating calls whenever the nearby football stadium held a night game and caused the sky to glow.

Insects are perhaps the hardest hit. The clouds of bugs that flock to streetlights may be a boon to bats, but the effect is likely temporary. A study in Germany found that the lights around new gas stations attracted swarms of insects for the first two years, after which their numbers fell precipitously because all the bugs nearby, and any eggs they would have laid, had been effectively sucked out of existence. “Lights have a remarkable vacuum effect,” says Christopher Kyba, a physicist at the Free University in Berlin. Insects are critical to ecosystems — tasty morsels in the food web and often, as with moths, key pollinators of plants — so ecologists are left to wonder about the long-term impact of the phenomenon on flora and fauna.

Kyba is an active participant in Verlust der Nacht (“loss of the night”), an ongoing endeavor by several institutes in Germany to explore the impacts of what’s becoming known as ecological light pollution. But as Kyba and his colleagues recently discovered, the underlying problem — the manifestation of the light itself — is more complex than anticipated. For months, using devices called sky quality meters, they measured the brightness of the night sky over Berlin and nearby rural areas. The results were dramatic: in the city, clouds made the sky 10 times brighter than it would have been on a clear night, and five miles outside the city it was nearly three times brighter. “Some people might say, ‘Well, everyone knows it gets brighter under cloudy conditions,’ ” Kyba says. “But now we know how much.” And the scale of the amplifier effect suggests that ecologists need to start taking it into account, given that many animals take their cues from moonlight or its absence. Until now, efforts to reduce light pollution have been led by astronomers, who have illustrated the problem with satellite photos of night-blazing cities. But satellite data may tell only part of the story. “For ecologists around the world, cloudy nights are more important than the clear ones,” he says.

One can’t do much about clouds, of course, so solutions to light pollution typically aim at the lighting. “There’s a lot of room for improvement in the technology,” Kyba says. (…)

The place to start, Kyba says, is “to encourage maximizing useful light and minimizing light that no one uses.” Step one: make sure that most outdoor lights are shielded so they don’t radiate directly into the sky. “Globe lights, while admittedly pretty, are probably among the worst offenders,” he says. Architectural and advertising lights could be flicked off after a certain hour.

What’s called for is darkness: less of the light we disregard anyway, except, increasingly, to rue it. We’re bright people — too bright; surely we can figure this one out.»

– Alan Burdick, “The End of Night“, May 25, 2011.

The tarantula-dancer

«That I may NOT turn dizzy, however, bind me fast, my friends, to this
pillar! Rather will I be a pillar-saint than a whirl of vengeance!

Verily, no cyclone or whirlwind is Zarathustra: and if he be a dancer, he
is not at all a tarantula-dancer!

Thus spake Zarathustra.»

– Nietzsche, “XXIX. THE TARANTULAS”.

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«A LITTLE reason, to be sure, a germ of wisdom scattered from star to star–
this leaven is mixed in all things: for the sake of folly, wisdom is mixed
in all things!

A little wisdom is indeed possible; but this blessed security have I found
in all things, that they prefer to DANCE on the feet of chance. (…)

And if it be my Alpha and Omega that everything heavy shall become light,
every body a dancer, and every spirit a bird: and verily, that is my Alpha
and Omega! (…)

Go out of the way of all such absolute ones! They have heavy feet and
sultry hearts:–they do not know how to dance. How could the earth be
light to such ones! (…)

You higher men, the worst about you is that all of you have not learned to dance as one must dance – to dance beyond yourselves!…»

– Nietzsche, “Zarathustra”.

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Choreography and dancing: Milena Sidorova
Music: Edvard Grieg