Friday, March 31, 2017

Blue State Subsidies

David Post over at Volokh had a discussion about blue states subsidisng red ones at the federal level.  There is a lot that he leaves out of the statistics.  Military bases, purchasing power, racial and age demographics, entitlements, and Washington DC itself. Just for openers. Other than that, a rather typical argument. Blue people rate higher, or want to move to whiter, younger, less-military places, with fewer children and not-employed people, claim they have other reasons. Maybe next election they’ll threaten to move to Mexico instead. Could be.  I don’t think many are explicitly thinking to themselves “Vermont! Yeah! There’s hardly any black people there. The old people have moved to Florida and because they’re liberals there aren’t many children.”  They’re more likely think “Attractive area.  Big on education and safety nets. Nice people, from what I can tell.” It’s the nice people part where the smuggling occurs. They see what they are including, but not what they are excluding.

So do we all. 

The Tim Tebow Effect in Current Politics

Bethany calls it the Tim Tebow Fallacy, and she has a point. “The tendency to increase the strength of a belief based on an incorrect perception that your viewpoint is underrepresented in the public discourse.” I am using Effect instead because I tend to think of the larger spectrum of people digging in against the tide, not all of which rises to the level of fallacy. Yet as a practical matter, it absolutely can get to that level, and quickly. (She also has a Forrest Gump Fallacy, if you want to amuse yourself with that. She’s still young, and may develop a whole stable of named fallacies by the time she’s finished.) It sprang from a Chuck Klosterman comment about the Tebow discussion.
both groups perceive themselves as the oppressed minority who are fighting against dominant public opinion
We often hear it in our political discourse. We certainly hear it about Trump now. A great part of his swing vote was giving voice to people who felt had been routinely not listened to. Boomers considered themselves to still be fighting against The Man even after they had been The Man for twenty years and were on their way out. He, and they, still carry that chip now. Understandable, I suppose, as these attitudes take a long while to develop and won’t disappear overnight. Yet really, you won. You can’t say that no one’s listening to you anymore. It’s your hand on the ship’s wheel at present. Okay, the last guys won’t let go of the wheel and people are trying to disengage it from the rudder and pummel you every chance, but that’s what always happens. Much worse than usual this time, but normal. You can’t just stick it to the man anymore, because now you are the man.

The opposition is sending the same wails into the night. “No one is listening to us!” It’s absurd, of course, because these are the elites who the general populace, from the Trump side, the Johnson side, and the Sanders side all decided have too much control.* The 60’s counterculture disguised itself and become The Man, but they still think of themselves as young warriors battling against the old establishment, now turned away at the gates. The Clintons are such a stereotypically good example of this that one almost suspects the whole game is fixed, like pro wrestling.

The reality is that any reduction in their power is a Narcissistic Injury . It is quite obviously painful, but that does not imply that they are oppressed. Actually, that is trending over to a related fallacy, that suffering is proof of oppression, which proves one is being treated unfairly, which proves one’s perspective is the true one.

This is where I wanted to go. It is not just an ever-increasing paranoia of being progressively convinced that one’s POV is being shut out, which is proof, PROOF, that someone is suppressing it. Why would someone suppress it? Because they know it’s true. SEE? That’s where it gets to fallacy level. We need not go that far. In milder form we might think that people are ignoring our point because it is uncomfortable. As all of us do that sort of ignoring at times, and intellectual history seems to record little else, it is certainly plausible to think that others are doing this now.

Also, sometimes we take something of a contrary stand just to prevent our own group from going too far. A young acquaintance of mine, editor of the local arts-and-event newspaper The Hippo, used the phrase, “balancing the room.” I get that. Even if you think they’re right, they aren’t going to be 100% right. Particularly in the area of attribution of motive to what the opposition is doing, even the most right of us can be badly wrong. Bethany also mentions a certain positioning effect within groups, of needing to both belong but also stand out. Lastly, political declaration is something of a positional good

There is another aspect to the Tim Tebow Effect which must be deeply related, though I can’t identify the precise cause and effect. People can talk for hours, adding nothing to the conversation, unable to stop. There is always one more thing that needs to be said, or some greater-than-usual need to have the last word. A TV executive at the height of the Tebow controversy said he could put up nothing but two guys arguing about Tim Tebow for all of his programming, and no one would turn it off. People would call the station to complain, tweet insulting things about the network and its banal pointless, shows, email everyone in the industry they could think of to Just stop. No more. I can’t take it. Yet they wouldn’t switch channels. Everyone knows this about politics in general and doubly so in the age of Trump – nothing is being added, yet we are drawn back in repeatedly, fish to lures, moths to flames.

This need for the last word, or perhaps even need to have extracted at least some concession, is not true for everything we do in our lives. All of us let most things go, with little difficulty. I don’t know what makes something a hobbyhorse for each of us, needing to be ridden endlessly, and even less do I know what makes a particular topic a more universal hobby horse. We know we are affecting nothing, yet somehow a great deal seems to be at stake.

*Here is the next level of irony. Those who support traditional culture in one of its many forms have been doing the same thing for years but are sneered at for having such an ignorant attitude now. WASP culture was dominant from the start of America (and in Northern Europe before that) and did give itself privileges and advantages. They signed on to an aggressive form of egalitarianism that they didn’t project would result in such a loss of power, but there it is, and they have gone along with it, however sullenly. (This will be a subsequent post.) A different group, largely secular but still drawing on religious ideals, used that system effectively in order to get power for themselves. Now that the latter group is having its power taken it is reacting similarly. I’m not commenting on which powers should be lost or gained by which groups, I’m just noting the irony.

Martial Law

I caught a thread which asked "Would Donald Trump stage a terrorist attack to keep power?" or something like that.  The consensus there was of course he would, and it would be great excuse to declare martial law and make himself dictator. I think the meme was from "The other 98%%" so there were plenty of shares and comments.  I kept thinking that there can't be that many people who actually believe this.  Do I try to reassure them? Mock them? Challenge them?  I've done all of these.  One of them was my recently mentioned friend and I thought "He can't really believe this.  this is paranoid.  This is insane!"

The other half of my brain said "Of course he doesn't believe it.  If he thought that, he would move to another country."  Yes, of course.  All those people who were sure that Bush was going to declare martial law in 2009, or that Obama had FEMA camps ready for us in 2017 didn't actually do anything about that. (Okay, I know one nutcase who had been in my adult Sunday School class who moved to Colombia, of all places. He claimed that he didn't get elected sheriff because none of us understood the Constitution.  Fine, then.) I think every president has been on the verge of declaring martial law for 50 years, except I don't recall anyone saying that about Ford.  Yay, Gerald!
I had a picture of those FEMA camps here, but it's been removed "somehow."  This of course proves that this is a truith the government is trying to suppress.

I have often focused on the virtue-signaling aspect of this, but that is not the only thing happening. We none of us like to believe we have been taken in. “The Dwarves are for The Dwarves.”  We saw this coming all along.  We weren’t fooled.  We always knew this was possible. It’s not only a hierarchy of rage and hierarchy of virtue, but of skepticism and cynicism, even if we have to reach well into paranoia to get there.

CS Lewis reacted with surprise upon encountering such cynicism among the soldiery during the war. They believed that most of what they had heard about the Germans was propaganda. They said they likely weren’t much worse than us and that England was doing terrible things they just weren’t hearing about.  I am surprised that Lewis was surprised, having been a soldier.  He took their comments at face value, wondering how they could continue to function as soldiers with such beliefs. Perhaps it’s not best to take their statements at face value.

Civil War correspondence from the front shows both sentiments, sometimes in the same letter.  “We hate them and want to kill the lot of them.  They aren’t much different from us really, poor bastards.” It’s not good to take such things entirely at face value.  People aren’t lying – what motive would they have to dissemble? – but what is happening is complicated.

We self-protect at some far fence, willing to imagine the potentially terrible in order that it does not take us at complete surprise.  I gave them my blood and my sweat, but not my soul.  If they turned out not to be the Christians/Americans/foxhole friends I thought they were, I could find others who were closer to the truth and offer them my allegiance instead.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Election Maps

I have posts, but I am still sick so going to bed. In the meantime, my son sent along these precinct-level maps of the last few presidential elections.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


The mouse has likely been with us for 15K years.  6000 years ago, the PIE word for the creature is reconstructed as mus. So it is also one of our oldest stable words.  Makes sense.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Two Conversations

Related to my Critical Thinking post (and to my Commenting post, Toxoplasma link - heck probably about 20% of everything I've posted) is this contrast between two FB conversations in the last 24 hours. One is with a high-school friend, the other with a second cousin I have not seen since childhood. In the former, my pal commented on a meme from Resistance Report, which is sort of like Occupy Democrats in that it's not a real source, it just collects things and puts them up, mostly just just niener-niener memes on topics of the day.  He had commented that Event X was typical of Republicans, who would be outraged if a Democrat did X but have no problem with Trump doing it.

Such constructions are not entirely useless, but they are perilous.  They do encourage the thought-experiment of asking oneself "Yeah..what if the situation were reversed?" But they are ultimately unknowable for certain.  If we want to make such an accusation, we had best be prepared to show that the Magentas got outraged by things very much like X when the shoe was on the other foot, and the Oranges weren't. The Serbs will tell you it's all the Croatians' fault, after all. We quickly got into other topics, somewhat related, but it was something of a whack-a-mole game. He was all over the map, but I thought it would be unhelpful to point that out.  (Eventually someone does need to point these things out to a person.  I come from a place where true things were denied, so no one said them. That uh, didn't work in the evangelism and character-development senses.  Things just got worse over the years, and the influence of that silence left some people unprotected.  So I don't mind pushing back.)

It reminded me of CS Lewis's writng about the impressions people have of history
The next thing I learned from the R.A.F. was that the English Proletariat is sceptical about History to a degree which academically educated persons can hardly imagine. This, indeed, seems to me to be far the widest cleavage between the learned and unlearned. The educated man habitually, almost without noticing it, sees the present as something that grows out of a long perspective of centuries. In the minds of my R.A.F. hearers this perspective simply did not exist. It seemed to me that they did not really believe that we have any reliable knowledge of historic man. But this was often curiously combined with a conviction that we knew a great deal about Pre-Historic Man: doubtless because Pre-Historic Man is labelled 'Science' (which is reliable) whereas Napoleon or Julius Caesar is labelled as 'History' (which is not). Thus a pseudo-scientific picture of the 'Cave-man' and a picture of 'the Present' filled almost the whole of their imaginations; between these, there lay only a shadowy and unimportant region in which the phantasmal shapes of Roman soldiers, stage-coaches, pirates, knights-in-armour, highwaymen, etc., moved in a mist
This was my friend's misty picture of current events: statements from the newspapers about Hillary Clinton, a misperception about law and interpretation, stereotypes from decades ago, but overall, an assurance that Republicans lie and cheat. Pointing out that individual accusations are false have no effect on this, not even a polite "Well yes, but..."

I had decided to say nothing further when it occurred to me that I might ask how he would try and convince a man from Mars about this. The Republicans say the Democrats lie, the Democrats say the Republicans do, how would he make his case? It seemed a giveaway that this would be an exercise in objectivity. He replied on some of the other topics - sort of - lurching to an ending line "A casual observer from mars would agree that the republicans are two faced, greedy and untrustworthy."I was dumbfounded.  I decided there was nothing to say to one who does not even know what a proper argument should look like.

On to my cousin.  I don't know her and have only connected on FB through other relatives, but I have every reason to think she's got the juice when it comes to smarts. She is equally liberal and sometimes unfair and snarky in her political comments, yet not dramatically so.  Today's post was interesting.  She had subscribed to WaPo and linked to an article about reimagining the Trump era as a Dungeons and Dragons game. Funny idea, I suppose, but I sighed a bit.  One of her comments was "And this article is journalism at its weakest:"hey let's quote a bunch of amusing tweets!!", but it made us laugh and that's something." I found that oddly comforting.  So you do know what a solid argument actually looks like. If pressed, you could make some sentient argument to a Martian why you thought Democrats are better than Republicans.

I think intelligence, in the sense of g-factor, must enter into it, though it is not any guarantee of self-observation.  Those who have spent a season or more among the very bright know this.  But this is a spot where I might give the nod to training rather than raw candlepower. Perhaps we have to have this drummed into our heads at some point or we never happen upon it ourselves.

Christian Counter-Culture

Excellent article at First Things about the Moral Minority, contrasting three books about what Christians should do going forward to answer a decaying culture.  I raised my first two children in something of Dreher's Benedictine Option (related to the Autobiographical Note post), but we moved away from it as they grew older, and it largely vanished with our adopted and then inherited sons, who very much wanted to be connected to the coolest, most normal American culture they could attach to. (They have shown some natural defenses.)

I liked something of each, but a bit at the end about Anthony Esolen (English prof at Providence College) was amusing.
In what is one of the most charming passages of the book, Esolen reflects on a series of Winslow Homer paintings portraying scenes in the everyday lives of children: away from adults, they are immersed in the natural world, and they are together, face to face. “When children come together to play, we see in miniature the very art of culture itself.”
When children came together when I was a child it was usually to argue about the rules of games and beat the crap out of each other. This is similar to the fallacy that Philip Yancey was guilty of (I think in What's So Amazing About Grace) when he put Jean Valjean forward as evidence that people really do go through radical transformation if we radically forgive. Ah, Phil? That's fiction. The author can make the characters do whatever he wants. It doesn't have to have the least relationship to reality. Just plausibility. To some.

Winslow Homer chose what he painted.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Autobiographical Note

Biography is interesting because a variety of narratives can be drawn from the same set of facts.  I don't mean that writers are (necessarily) dishonest or stupid. We see different things, assemble them into a plot, and that story takes on an energy of its own, suppressing some bits and highlighting others. This is even more true for autobiography, as the reasons for choosing one explanation over another are invisible to us, and likely for self-protective reasons. I know the details of my life better than any other individual by far, even if I get some things wrong that others might correct.

BTW, I wonder if Obama will go on to break the record for most autobiographies written.

This is related to blind spots of experts in general. Alfred Wegener, one of the key figures in the development of the theory of plate tectonics, was a meteorologist, not a geologist.  Any real geologist could have run rings around him...

No, wait.  That isn't where I was going at all.  Ahem.  I am an expert on my own life, but that does not mean that my own story of what happened is the best one.  I am likely the best source for disproving some theories based on inaccurate facts - no, I did not go to London as a child and was not frightened by a bear at the zoo there. Though even at that, we do tend to mix things up, placing events in wrong years with different companions. But others might make observations or draw lessons about my life that are superior to my own. I am likely to be badly wrong in spots.

When browsing through a folder not-much-related to politics in my memory, a fact dropped out. I hadn't forgotten it or suppressed it or refused to acknowledge it. It was just a small thing, not much related to other things.  Memories are not fully cross-referenced.

I have always said that I started out on the political left right out of the gate in 7th grade and became even more leftist rather quickly, identifying as socialist/extreme pacifist/America-as-racist oppressor. I still think that is true, though I may be rethinking a lot of this.  From that point, I described a gradual journey rightward over the decades, to my current point of sympathising largely but not entirely with conservatives.

Except that I just remembered a conversation in 1978 with my pastor when I was a Lutheran, who was giving evidence that Christians are not commanded to be mostly uninvolved with all nations and government.  I remembered that I had been advocating exactly that - and it was not a new idea to me. The peace churches, many in the early Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, American fundamentalists before Jimmy Carter - all of these taught something vaguely like that. Our focus was Christ and the Gospel, no time for other causes. Yes, a radical restructuring of society was needed, but that was to be based on individuals, not nations. 

I traced it back well into the early 70's.  William and Mary was something of a bubble and events in the outside world did not loom large among 18th C buildings, music, and performances, nor among those fascinated by heroic fantasy and the stories of Arthur.  OTOH, if you are singing lots of Eagles and CSN&Y, you are going to be reinforced as liberal at every rehearsal.  Plus theater.  I traced this essential apathy toward political matters forward well into the 80's as well. I retained a default liberalism, though Lewis and Tolkien undermined my confidence in pacifism and government intervention to produce justice.

I was mostly an outside observer, which is what I think allowed me to observe the political comments of the people I worked with, went to church and Bible study with, or shared a family with - and to compare those comments to how they lived their lives.  This was rather mixed, especially among the relatives, but the liberals did not do well here - not at work, not at church and church camp, and not in the journal of the Prometheus Society. I noticed arguing-by-condescension and sneer, directed against people and groups I knew to be quite decent.  Screwtape tells Wormwood about a group of friends he would like his nephew to cultivate with his patient.  They make reference to Christianity, and many virtues and traditional things in general, as if the joke has already been made, though no one actually takes the time to elucidate exactly where the ridiculousness is.  Or if they do, it is social, not logical.  We don't believe that anymore.

That stuck with me.  It has been one of the key thoughts in my understanding why people do not even consider the claims of Christ - they live in environments where they are told that the matter need not even be seriously entertained.  I saw that.  And I saw also that they did the exact same thing about political matters.  The joke has already been made.  Don't you read Doonesbury?  When I emerged from the less-political universe, I already had many conservative sympathies in place, though I still thought of myself as a Democrat.  I voted for Al Gore in the NH primary in 1988 because he was a more conservative Democrat.  That was about the time when I started actually reading the news again. My oldest son was 9 at the time.  I doubt he remembers a time when his father had different politics.

So my previous narrative may have some truth-values, as they say.  But I actually didn't move across the political spectrum from 1972-1989, as I have believed and written.  I went to some underground river in those years, not thinking about it much at all, entering as a European socialist on one end and emerging as someone who liked 10 of his his 15 minutes of Limbaugh every day. I don't want to draw harder edges than are real.  The river wasn't entirely underground, because I had friends interested in politics. The boundary years are flexible as well.

Still, it's unnerving to re-look at some developmentally critical years this way. Sumus quod sumus.  Except we may not know who we are.  We mostly only know who we aren't.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Comments underneath posts are notoriously bad, and the more popular the website, the more absolutely infuriating commenters it attracts.  Most good sites attract at least some good commenters, however.

Which site has the best commenters? What do you think creates that?

The Toxoplasma of Rage

This came up in an email discussion and I thought I would remind everyone of the essay The Toxoplasma of Rage. It's one of the best essays of the 21st C, even though Alexander isn't a professional essayist.  He's a good observer, he's got some courage, and this thinking is very clear. He does tend to be a bit uh, thorough but it's worth it.  I didn't reread the comments, even though his commenters are very good.  Which reminds me...

Critical Thinking

The point-of-view will not be unfamiliar to readers here.  Critical thinking is not being taught to college students. Rob Jenkins has a bit different take on it that I found interesting.  They are being taught something else under the title Critical Thinking instead.

I was not surprised to read the research he references that students do not improve much in many areas by going to college, critical thinking being among the worst.  Yet I haven't attributed that to the colleges, as most critics would.  I think many people just can't learn it, because they won't learn it, or it takes to much expensive energy to learn it, or they just aren't wired that way.  I know plenty of fairly bright people who have the ability to apply critical thinking only in select circumstances, missing the obvious in other areas. Why do they hem and haw and hide and stop?  I do not know.  Go ask your Pop.

There may be something to the idea that colleges contribute to the problem by teaching something else instead, however.  Such things put the mind to sleep.  We can't learn everything, and will focus where need or interest directs. I think the first step is to set up the objective and dispassionate as an ideal, even while recognising all will fall short. The student might then engage in true life-long learning, reminding himself of the need.

(HT: Instapundit)


I always thought Barack Obama was bad enough just as he stood, with no need to invent worse things about him.  Nonetheless many of his opponents seemed unable to refrain from circulating things that were unlikely right out of the gate or refusing to accept reasonable explanations.

I said the same about Trump over a year ago: why make stuff up? why the need to make things worse than they are? It happens so often that it must be a human nature thing.

I grant that some of this must be tactical, if poorly so.  People aren't upset enough about this guy! What if he's a actually gay?  THEN they'll finally see and turn against him.  What if he's a traitor?  Finally, finally, people will see. Yet it is not only ineffective, it likely has an opposite effect.  Criticise someone unfairly and even some of his or her enemies will start taking pity.

Which is why I conclude that some other need is being met when opponents exaggerate and demonise. It must be that the goal is not to talk about the other party, or politician, or public representative, or voters.  It must be a way of talking about oneself.  I've made it clear over the years what I think that is, but I actually don't insist on my special interpretation.  It's pretty clear that something social rather than logical is up, however.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


The little Adsense blurb on my Blogger page has increased its estimate of what I could make a month from $12 to $13/month.  This changes everything.

Educate Yourself

This is a simple enough phrase, but not one that everyone who is anti-vaccine could have arrived it independently.  It must be a phrase that is used frequently on alternative or anti-vax websites, then adopted by all.

It's an odd phrase, because in one sense we all are self-taught, acquiring knowledge only when we are putting in some effort.  It is not only geniuses who are autodidacts. Yet there is a real sense in which none of us has done much to "educate ourselves."  We stand on the shoulders of giants, and could not reconstruct even 1% of current knowledge starting from scratch.

This comes up because my youngest cousin asked on facebook whether she should have her 12 y/o daughter get the HPV vaccination and got an earful. She quickly deleted the entire thread (for which I congratulated her.) Several commenters used variations of "you have to educate yourself."

It must have powerful juju to be so meaningful to so many who have heretofore researched nothing, but now devote hours finding examples of what I they want to hear. If this seems an unfair generalisation, it might be.  I can see rejecting any number of individual pieces of modern, Western medicine.  But I have no one in my experience who researched other things before coming up against the vaccination question and then rejected them.  My anti-vaxxers, at least, are all people who may be smart enough in some ways, but never showed any interest in looking things up before. 

"Educate yourself," then, appears to mean "listen to only one side of things." Powerful.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


A friend pointed out that I give an impression that the people I work with are not only consistently liberal, but have an extremist streak.  He knows from experience that this is not so.  He is right, and I should correct that impression. I will include an anecdote, to keep it memorable.

Social workers are largely liberal, and a few are pretty extremist, but there are two interesting points.  Some have a pretty strong sense that "your decisions have contributed to this, and I don't feel obligated to rescue you from everything."  A significant minority also came into the field from religious, helping-mankind, or personal addiction 12-Step perspectives and have something of an accountability streak.

This is not so for psychologists and OT/RT sorts.  They are almost thoroughly liberal.  Psych nurses are mixed, and I don't have a neat categorisation of how that is.  Married/unmarried/divorced, young/middle/old - I don't see patterns. Mental health lawyers are very liberal, hospital administrators are as well (except for the accounting and budget guys.  No surprise there.)

Psychiatrists are quite interesting.  Most are pretty liberal, especially politically - but that accountability question comes up a lot and they back off from the extremes.  In my experience, the female psychiatrists are more conservative than the male. The anecdote: a female psychiatrist with a young daughter was talking about some Disney Princess experience they had been sharing recently. Because my granddaughters are deeply involved in several, I was chiming in a bit talking about art, myth, values communicated.  I see good and bad in the princesses.  Another woman present expressed the reflexive disdain that educated feminist women are supposed to have for princesses - and threw in Barbie as well.  The psychiatrist smiled slightly, not commenting.  After the other left she sighed, then twinkled.  "I loved Barbie and dress up my whole childhood.  I decided after I got my master's in organic chemistry and got accepted to med school that I didn't have to answer to Women's Studies majors anymore."

Understanding Shakespeare

Following McWhorter's comment about the changing meaning of words in a particular speech in "Hamlet," I went to the scene in question to see what I could see. I have noted before that Will isn't as understandable as people claim.  In fact, I noted it the last time I listened to McWhorter on the subject a decade ago. My other mentions of Shakespeare are at the link - some fun stuff.

At best,  we get the general meaning from context, though with difficulty.  At worst, a recognisable word has changed enough in meaning that we think we understand what we actually do not. As in "censure," below. Entirely different now.

Polonius's speech to Laertes. Note that we have some advantages here.  It is Shakespeare's most famous play, and often considered his best.  The speech itself is known even outside the context of performance and study.  We don't get all the rules for thou and thee when creating speech, but we get the idea reading, because of the King James. There are common sayings that have entered the language, even cliches, near the end of the famous speech. But I submit it is a tough go.

Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!  (Does he mean here in place, or time? mostly time?)
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail (Metaphor for Laetertes' destiny, or just the physical sail?)
And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with thee. (Waited for.  I think.)
And these few precepts in thy memory ( he being quizzed on this, Polonius?  Ah!  You mean you are going to give him some precepts!  Got it.)
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,  (No clue.  Character is a good thing?  I should have good character?  I should look for it in others?  Then, keep silent?  Don't let anyone know what I'm thinking?)
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.   (I'm betting an unproportioned thought is...extreme? Not thought out?)
Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.  (Be chummy, informal, but not curse or tell dirty jokes?  Or does this mean to be friendly, but not with lower classes.)
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, (Adoption. Waiting period on real friendship? Then you take themm for good? )
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,  (Grapple...hoops.  Cling to them even if they don't like it?  Or just be loyal.)
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment (Is this a masturbation joke?  Or about spending money, like greasing a palm.)
Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware (Okay new.  Poetic. But is it the youth of the person or the newness of the relationship?)
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, (A quarrel with an individual?  Between other individuals?  Political or religious quarrels?)
Bear ’t that th' opposèd may beware of thee. (Don't fight unless you think you can win, or at least wound.  Got it.)
Give every man thy ear but few thy voice. (So, act like a spy among your peers.  Or maybe you think I should just shut up, Polonius?)
Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment. (So everyone can criticise and insult me without reply.  Don't come to any conclusions about others, really.)
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,  (Buy only the best wine, tobacco, restaurants. Seems like bad advice.)
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,  (Gaudy wine? You've lost me here.)
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,  (Ah, clothes, clothes!  Now I get it.  Wear the best you can afford, so that people will think you drive a Mercedes or Volvo.)
And they in France of the best rank and station  (Like the French, who are really big on this style and wealth thing.)
Are of a most select and generous chief in that. (Generous're losing me again. Are they forgiving, or disapproving?)
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,  (Yeah I've heard that.  Seems good)
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,  (Actually, I've had that happen to me.  You're right.)
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. (I'm not in 4-H and not raising animals, so I'm thinking that "husbandry" is a more general term for working.  And that Tom Lehrer joke occurs to me.)
This above all: to thine own self be true,  (Do what I feel?  Don't kid myself? Is this like my best self, a kind of Virtue Ethics?)
And it must follow, as the night the day,  (Universal law.  Not sure it is, though)
Thou canst not then be false to any man.  (Sure I can.  Watch me.)
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee. (Because you say this nicely, it is more likely to sink in.)

Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.  (Why humbly?  Is something up, or is this just the usual way they talked?)

The time invites you. Go. Your servants tend. (Are we back to that sail thing at the beginning again?  The time is ripe.  Time is gesturing to me impatiently?  The hired help is completely ready and getting itchy?  What the hell?)

Farewell, Ophelia, and remember well  (This is clear. Finally)
What I have said to you.  (Wink wink.)
Here's a fun comparison:  There is an English creole, Gullah, created by rice plantation slaves in Georgia and South Carolina.  Some written work has been drawn out of it, but it is largely an oral language.* There are sill a few speakers of it. In terms of reputation for elegance, it is at the opposite end of the continuum from OMG! THE BARD! But it is just about as understandable to us now. If you went and lived among them for a few months it would be easy, just as it would be similarly easy for a time traveler to converse in the London dialect of 1600 after just a few months. We are close enough that it is a fairly straightforward adjustment.
Brer Lion bin a hunt, an eh spy Brer Goat duh leddown topper er big rock duh wuk eh mout an der chaw. Eh creep up fuh ketch um. Wen eh git close ter um eh notus um good. Brer Goat keep on chaw. Brer Lion try fuh fine out wuh Brer Goat duh eat. Eh yent see nuttne nigh um ceptin de nekked rock wuh eh duh leddown on. Brer Lion stonish. Eh wait topper Brer Goat. Brer Goat keep on chaw, an chaw, an chaw. Brer Lion cant mek de ting out, an eh come close, an eh say: "Hay! Brer Goat, wuh you duh eat?" Brer Goat skade wen Brer Lion rise up befo um, but eh keep er bole harte, an eh mek ansur: "Me duh chaw dis rock, an ef you dont leff, wen me done long um me guine eat you". Dis big wud sabe Brer Goat. Bole man git outer diffikelty way coward man lose eh life.
*Though Shakespeare wrote his works, Elizabethan English, more properly called Early Modern English, was oral as well.  There were few manuscripts and actors were required to display much more power of memorisation than they do today, because they had less time, and less opportunity to refer back to manuscripts while learning lines. The audiences were not at all reliably literate.  It was still largely an oral language. Some modern actors would fare well.  In college, Glenn Close would attend first read-through with most of her lines already in place, and knew them all at first rehearsal. I heard others describe (with amused shock) when she had dropped a line and needed a prompt, but I never heard it myself. Not that I was there for even a quarter of her rehearsals. I have heard that Michael Caine was similarly stunning.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fearless Girl

I am only at work about two days a week now.  Two people, a part-time psychiatrist about my age and a psychiatric nurse in her thirties, both mentioned Fearless Girl - one to comment on the obscene response by a young Wall Street Trader (and a short rant mind-reading why he did it) and another to be pleased that someone was finally making the general public aware of the discrimination against women.

This seems to be evidence against them, that they can be so easily moved by simplistic art in the old socialist style. I get it that art is powerful, and that's its job.  But must we put up NO defense against attempts to manipulate us?

George Bernard Shaw

I never much liked him while studying him in college.  Shaw was considered second only to Shakespeare, but he always bothered me.  I was gratified when I started reading CS Lewis to find that he also found Shaw irritating, but I could never put words to it until long after.  (I did like "Pygmalion," possibly because of My Fair Lady, and I didn't find "Major Barbara" so bad. ) I now get what bothered me: playwrights can create a false reality. (Yeah, duh, but bear with me.) They can make a priest be a hypocrite by the lines thy put in his mouth and the actions they make him perform.  They can make Chinese inscrutable, blacks shiftless, businessmen greedy, wives innocent, husbands oppressive, children wise, and politicians corrupt, however they choose.  This is all rather obvious, but if it is done skillfully the reader or audience is taken in, accepting the prejudice of the playwright as if it were a fact.

Shaw does this rather clumsily, but taking all in all, it's not entirely his fault.  He came out of the tradition of melodrama, and was one of the first to pull away from it. Pioneers don't have the advantages of knowing the tricks of those who come later.  They are the inventors of the tricks. If we compare GBS to those who came after he is certainly cartoonish. Yet compared to those who came before he shows a more realistic character. Still, it is worth noting that an artist who deserves credit from scholars may not be worthy of the effort of a production now.  It was a favorite theme among my theater friends in the 1970's that Sarte had stolen everything from Artaud, and it's sorta true.  Nonetheless, Sarte did it better and remains at least watchable/readable.  Artaud is not that interesting anymore.

As for Shaw, John Osborne thought him a complete fraud.  I don't know that this is true, but I am figuring that Osborne has some credibility here. More than, say, me.  Or you. Others disagree, and I suppose they have more credibility than me also.  It's fascinating to read the Wikipedia article and realise that the collective critics pretty much boil down to one critic who has successfully fought off the others.  In this case, whoever controls the Wikipedia legacy of Shaw has decided that Fred S Crawford's opinion is the bee's knees.  Crawford insists that everyone who criticises Shaw was nonetheless influenced by him, no matter how far he has to stretch to illustrate that. Everyone owes everything to Shaw, it st seems.  Coward, Ayckbourn, Stoppard, and all the absurdists. Even Osborne who disliked him. Crawford finds it not only significant, but definitive, that the cahttering classes talking about Shaw gave birth to the word shavian, which is still in use today.  Except it isn't.

Welcome to the petty world of artistic criticism.  What remains is that we can examine Shaw for his ideas and see how those have held up.  I'll give that summary to George Orwell, who makes a genrral observation that is also quite good, then narrows it to Shaw.

As it happens, George Orwell in his 1946 pamphlet James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution does shed light on the Glenn Beckish claim that Shaw’s dual embrace of communism and fascism was broadly typical of Fabians or other sorts of socialists:
English writers who consider Communism and Fascism to be the same thing invariably hold that both are monstrous evils which must be fought to the death; on the other hand, any Englishman who believes Communism and Fascism to be opposites will feel that he ought to side with one or the other. The only exception I am able to think of is Bernard Shaw, who, for some years at any rate, declared Communism and Fascism to be much the same thing, and was in favour of both of them.
 I have complained about  the teaching of Shakespeare as well.  He's next.  If you want to get a head start, read Polonius's speech to Laertes.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Oh yeah, I went there on my road trip.  I should mention it just in case you plan to go.  It’s fine.  Like many museums, in its effort to get everything in and unwillingness to offend by calling one part more important than the others, it would probably be best to do this in two bites, or more. It is complete, as it should be.  It can get tedious in the third hour. But it has lots of video, nice displays from many eras, and an opportunity to see career summaries with videos of inductees.  There is a hall of busts of inductees which is designed to look impressive, but really, not that that gripping to look at.  The touch screens that allow you to see all the San Diego Chargers who are in the Hall, with statistics and videos is more interesting. There are old uniforms and equipment, and reports from the early years that are fascinating in their oddness, such as the Duluth Eskimos, or the Pottsville Maroons being disciplined for infringing on the territorial rights of the Rock Island Independents. It was a narrower football world in 1920.

I did learn things.  Because of a paperback about Great NFL Quarterbacks given to me when I was  quite young, I have always been interested in Slingin' Sammy Baugh and it was fun to read up on him.  He came out of Sweetwater Texas, adopted football fairly late, and excelled because he was among the first to really work at the forward pass.  The game was changing, he was an athlete, and no one quite knew how to defend it.  Something similar happened in his great defeat, the 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears for the championship. They ran a man-in-motion, which was completely undefensible when sprung on a team by surprise.  Before there was film to study, you could still show up and run a scheme that no one had an answer for.  

Only two original teams remain.  The (Racine) Chicago Cardinals, now of Arizona, and the Decatur Staleys, now the Chicago Bears.

And yes, Tim Tebow is in the Hall and likely to hold his spot, for the quickest playoff overtime victory, in 2012 against the Steelers.  11 seconds. As the OT drives are started on the 20-yard line, that’s not likely to be beaten.