Thursday, December 14, 2017

Net Neutrality

Am I for this or against it?  I haven't put any effort into thinking about it.

ESPN and Racism, Sexism

There's a lot of commentary in the conservosphere that ESPN is losing customers because of their unrelentingly liberal politics.  Well, maybe. I don't think I would like it much better if they were unrelentingly conservative in their politics. The line always is "These issues are important! We can't refuse to talk about them.  We have a responsibility..." Yeah, sure. I think they are important, too.  I do want to hear about them.  Just not from sportscasters and athletes and coaches.  I don't care about Tom Brady's take on racism in the NFL, or Bill Belichick's. I might, might be interested in Richard Sherman's take.  Yes, his main qualification is that he is a great athlete, but he has secondary qualifications of being intelligent and thoughtful.  Mouthy, I'm not thrilled with, but I can endure it.

So a few minutes of Sherman, maybe.  Stephen A. Smith has interesting delivery, so a few minutes of him.  But why on earth should I be interested what Mike and Mike think, or Jemele Hill?

Nu Tandas Tusen Julejus

This was fun to find.  We just sang these for Luciadag.


Christmas Parang

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Racism

Related to the previous post: Sometimes in a comment thread a person will claim that the writer or some of the commenters are "racist" because they believe there are measurable differences among races. If one goes browsing around the online dictionaries, there is some diversity of definition, with one requiring that race be the primary determinant of some characteristic while another only mentions race as one factor.  Some definitions lean heavily on included meanings of superiority and inferiority. One dictionary goes so far as to label any belief in differences in races at all as "racism."

It is often hard to be precise.  Yet surely one requirement must be that all uses of letters in the same order cannot be interchangeable in every setting.  If that were so, I would be congratulating my patients on their good fortune when I tell them they have outstanding charges.

Diversity: Meaning Change and Fashion

The word diversity has changed, acquiring a related but separate meaning. It is a political, not a scientific or literary meaning. If you don't know that, and insist on using the word as if it has not moved, you will seem to be a bigot. In addition to the previous meaning of "variety, multiplicity, heterogeneity" it now means "showing conscious respect for previously disadvantaged groups, especially African-Americans." You will not find this meaning if you look in dictionaries (though this will be coming soon - modern dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive and don't care what people think a word should mean). Yet if you google "diversity" and look at the autocompletes, you will see that the new meaning is already the more common one in popular culture.

Therefore, when some Ohio senator tweeted that diversity is not a strength, assimilation is the strength, he was assailed from many sides.  His statement, according to the old meaning, is not only true but blindingly obvious. Only a fool could disagree with the first half of that statement.  The second half - well, it's going to depend on what one means by "assimilation," but I'll bet I would agree with him.

However, his critics took him as if he was using their more modern and fashionable meaning, as if he was saying "It's not important to show respect to black people, or gays, or women, or Hispanics, or whatever. Keeping them invisible and powerless is okay." Do those attacking him not understand what he meant? I am tempted to say that they understood him entirely, but they want an excuse to attack him, and to insist that their meaning - their culture, their fashion, their signalling - is the real one. There is a real boot-stepping-on-a-face-endlessly nature to this.  It is Newspeak, where only the special ones understand, and they get to punish those who must be evil because they aren't woke. Liberalism is sustained by fashionableness, after all. I have no doubt whatsoever that this pretending to not understand is a fair accusation against many in The Resistance.

And yet...I am not now coming of age with words as they are currently used.  I am old, and my reading and culture ally me with generations prior even to my own. I don't really know how thirtysomethings hear the word now. They might not be pretending to misunderstand (as one of the nastier critics,  John Podhoretz clearly is) that use of "diversity;" they might actually think there are two meanings, and have leapt to the conclusion that because it's about politics, the political meaning is the true one. Some are dishonest.  Some are indoctrinated. I cannot discern between them.

****

Additional note. Most of my black friends vote consistently Democrat, but many are not especially political, or are at least not public about it.  Those few who adopt more of an advocacy stance are very liberal, very confrontive.  I notice that they uniformly pronounce the word "die-versity," and absolutely only mean black people, not gays or folks with disabilities or Asians. The nuances of that are going to be clearer to an African-American who keeps up with politics than they are to me.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Visualisation

 Lelia linked to an interesting article about the ability to visualise objects. I had not much thought about the topic. Just a bit from time to time over the years.

I don't miss body language and visual cues that much, but do find I am much more attuned to tones of voice. I can picture things, especially geometrics - even complicated ones. But I don't picture them all that vividly. The colors are seldom vibrant, and the images dissolve and have to be refreshed frequently. Unsurprisingly, I do not much enjoy description in novels, preferring plot and dialogue. When I finally broke down and watched The Lord of the Rings I was quite grateful to Peter Jackson for providing such wonderful scenery and monsters.  I was less pleased with the bodies and faces of the people, which did not entirely match my own.  However, neither had the still illustrations of the characters over the years much convinced me either, and his were better than most.  I could make the adjustment.

I did not adjust to the voices of the characters no matter how long I watched, except for Sam, who sounded much like my own read-aloud voice for his character. (I have read the entirety aloud three times in my life.  Gollum can really damage your voice.)

This may explain why I have found writing fiction difficult, even though dialogue just springs naturally, and seldom needs much rewriting. I do not consistently describe things well.  There is a range, and I will occasionally hit it just right, but more often it is pedestrian, lifeless. This weakened visualisation may also explain why I consider film a dangerously powerful medium and tend to avoid it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Mannheim Steamroller Concert

I lost The Little Drummer Boy Challenge on December 5 this year.  I went to a Mannheim Steamroller concert, and of course it was on the bill.  I should have seen it coming.

I was even more annoyed because their version, including the accompanying video, was so poor that I could not even get any enjoyment to compensate. However, analyzing why it was so poor revealed to me a good deal of why the entire concert was disappointing, so it gave me something to think about, and now write about.  So I think it's a fair trade after all.

They have not updated the arrangement since 1988. They have not updated any of the arrangements. This may not be bad in itself, if you created a classic the first time or got exactly what you wanted.  That's not likely when it's every song. Now, it just sounds like they're stuck in the 80's. The world did not go in the synthesizer direction. Chip Davis was creative, with unusual arrangements of older music - lots more drum, synth, bass, and percussion than we were used to. You liked it or you didn't, but it was an attempt at something new. Now they've added a Genesis-style light show and some mostly-irritating videos to musicians performing their CD tracks.

"The Little Drummer Boy" video was about a toy drummer, 
plus a lot of other Christmas toys being woken up to dance and play at night after Santa's elves have gone to sleep. Ah, so you didn't actually listen to the lyrics, then, did you? Davis has always been a bit strong on the Magic of Christmas nonsense and sentimentality, yet I did think there might be something Christian in there. Listening to the 1988 version in that context, with its mechanical effect, it is clear that a toy drummer was his intent from the start.  I'm surprised I never noticed it before.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" has this video of a guy in medieval costume saddling up and then riding a horse across fields.  Hard, as if on some errand. This made no sense. I eventually decided that it was merely a superficial response to the archaic phrase in the title.  It's medieval, doncha get it? So we have this medieval guy. This was confirmed when the video ended at a moated castle, with a baron and baroness waving behind the parapet. When Chip Davis's daughter Elyse sang "Greensleeves," she had green sleeves.  Nothing in her vocal or facial expression showed the least connection to the lyrics. "Angels We Have Heard On High" had this journey through space with ethereal angels in diaphanous gowns looming up repeatedly on the screen, reminiscent of Star Wars - A New Hope just before they would go into hyperdrive. Passing planets on the way, too close together. "Carol of the Bells" had these vaguely demonic modern interpretive dancers arranged on the screen - very 70's choreography.

There was some non-Christmas music as well, very space-and-light-show, techno sound. To which I can only say far out! 

 We were about average age for the concert audience, maybe even a bit young.  Chip Davis is the Lawrence Welk of our generation.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Dogs That Didn't Bark

Documents long held confidential about the JFK assassination were released recently.  I expected there to be a significant uptick in old conspiracy theorists dragging out their wares and placing them out on table in the market for buyers to peruse. There was a flurry about some little thing in the first day or so.  I don't even recall what. I haven't heard anything since thing, suggesting that there really isn't anything to add.  Dogs would be barking, but there are no dogs barking. It is a shortcut I am taking, because researching this doesn't rise to level of importance. 

The whole Seth Rich story rose up and died down months ago. There was a thought that because he was a strong possible of who leaked the DNC emails that his death may not have been accidental. It all seemed like a Robert Ludlum novel right out of the gate.  There were odd details about the robbery.  The work of a private detective kept the story going for a while. But his parents said it wasn't true, and liberals said it was mean to pursue it because of that. (Though in a Robert Ludlum novel, the parents would also have been threatened, so why would their opinion be decisive?) Whatever agency was investigating it determined that there was no need to go further and dropped it. Anyone bringing it up afterward was dismissed as a paranoid right-winger. Until Donna Brazile, of all people brought it up again. She barked. She was worried that her life was in danger because of the information she was revealing about Democrats, and specifically referenced Seth Rich. So she thought her own people capable of this, enough to say it right out loud.

But since then no other dogs have barked.  There are people much more paranoid and obsessed than I am out there who have informed themselves about all this and run through the various speculations.  I have to figure if there were some reason to bring this back they would be trying to work it in at every turn. I use my shortcut again. Researching this does not rise to any level of importance for me. I rely on the fact that no dogs are barking.

Yet this morning it all got weird.  I had a third example, but the dogs just started barking again. I have a great deal of admiration for the uh, doggedness of Judicial Watch. Real documents which the government doesn't want to release. So maybe whether dogs are barking or not isn't as good a shortcut as I thought.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Animosity

Burrowing again into Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, I find Olmstead making an observation I had not known, but should have realised. Americans in 1850 had much more resentment and enmity toward England than England had for us. We had had no other military foes in our existence, so events of forty or seventy years previous still loomed large. Boys at games played at Americans versus the British; bad laws were assumed to descend from England.

The English rather liked us, regarding us as rowdy younger brothers.  Most agreed that the American colonies should have become independent, as King George was indeed wrong. Not one in a hundred even knew there had been a War of 1812. Britain had been at war with half the world by then, and were more focused on France, Spain, or Germany. "The uneducated, common people in general know no difference between America and Russia." They enquired about us with an eye to emigration, for themselves or their children. They approved of our form of government and wish they had more of it. Even among the wealthier - though Olmstead did not meet any aristocracy - this was so.

One thing they held against us, slavery, which they believed was equally practiced and shared in throughout the United States. They could understand such a thing occurring in more primitive places, but not in civilised lands. They believed only the worst of the exaggerated stories (Walks and Talks was written before The Cotton Kingdom, and Olmstead still thought the reports about the South to be one-sided), though that is always true of news from far-off places.

Another note:  Olmstead seldom if ever uses the name "United States," it is always "America." I wonder if that was more common in the North, where the concept of union, and commonality, was stronger.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

German Antisemitism

Gringo buried a fascinating link in the comments over at Maggie's, about the antisemitism of Germans, and the possibility that much of the refugee immigration was tolerated in order to get rid of Jews. It seems a stretch to think of this as a plot, but as a convenient development it is plausible.

The author is ex-leftist journalist Melanie Phillips.  English, Oxford, my age, now more right-wing identified (though not on all issues). Worth a look, I think.

Advent

James mentioned in the comments (look it up, it will do you good) that Advent was a penitential season.  If I would like to reclaim Christmas, it would likely take something radical like a fast of some sort, or it would just be a Good Intention, forgotten by Tuesday.

I don't have much time, as Advent begins in just a few days. I don't have a plan.