Friday, September 30, 2016

Overcoming Bad Mental Habits

Western civilization: 2000 years ago, although the mass of people were in some senses less free than they are today -- for example, as many as 15% of the people in the Roman Empire, and as many as 40% of the population Italy, were slaves -- still, most of them, even the slaves, were somewhat freer than we are today to speculate about religious matters.

That freedom of discussion began to go away as Christianity began to take over in the 4th century, and by the end of the 5th century, like the Roman Empire's territory in the West, it was almost completely gone.

Western civilization had adopted a very bad idea: that there was only one true religion and that no-one was allowed to have any other opinions about it. We in the Western world began to shake off this intolerance of discussion of religious things in the 17th century, and we're still shaking it off.

As Christianity has faded, capitalism has grown. As there was with Christianity before, there is very little tolerance for people (socialists) who say that capitalism is a bad idea. There is constant discussion about what kind of capitalism is best, much as the Western universities were once dominated by discussions of what kind of Christianity was best, but to say that capitalism itself is something which must be overcome is still today a lot like saying several centuries ago that Christianity itself was nonsense: it's bad for a career in business or politics.

Now I want to make it as clear as I can that I did not just say that capitalism is a religion. I said that I saw a similarity in the development of the two and their places in Western society in two different eras. But they're not the same thing.

If I point out that a cat and a dog both have fur, I am not saying that a cat is a dog or that a dog is a cat. That would be ridiculous.

But a lot of Christian theologians have said that capitalism is a religion. Other people have said it too, but it seems to be very common among the theologians to say that this or that thing which is not a religion, is a religion. Karl Barth said that everyone has a religion and that therefore everyone is a theologian of some sort.

Theologians are constantly saying completely nonsensical things like that. It seems to me that they have to say all sorts of nonsensical things in order to sustain religious belief, or, more precisely, in order to impede clear thought about religion.

Capitalism is not a religion. Neither is socialism, or golf. But because we in the Western world have become so inundated with theological nonsense and so used to it, many of us fall for absurd notions such as that a way of doing business or a sport can be a religion.

Clear thinking about religion tells us that, although it may have been very useful in the past, and may still serve many functions today, its major premises about supernatural creators and guardians and eternal reward and punishment and so forth, are all unsound.

Similarly, and once again I am by no means saying that capitalism is a religion, clear thinking about capitalism tells us that it has many shortcomings among its basic premises, and that we can do better. Capitalism is dog-eat-dog. It rewards sociopathological behavior. It is deeply, inherently unfair.

It is not particularly unusual for me to say that I am an atheist. It's becoming more and more common for people to just come right out and say that they're atheists. And we're not all extremely pugnacious and unpleasant about being atheists, the way that the New Atheists are. We're getting closer and closing to the level of religious tolerance which existed in the Roman Empire 2000 years ago, when it was taken for granted that anyone was free to say want they wanted about religion and to believe and practice as they wished, and it was considered quite rude to denigrate anyone else's religion and insist that one's own was the only correct one.

They may be very many people today who believe that it would be best if society were organized so that everyone contributed to the well-being of all according to their abilities, and was cared for by all according to their needs. That's socialism. Capitalism and socialism are incompatible. Almost all of us are part-capitalist and part-socialist: part-capitalist because we have to be in order to survive within the capitalist system which dominates the world today; and part socialist, because we're decent human beings. There are very few people who are purely capitalistic all the time. They are awful, disgusting people like Donald Trump and the AIDS medication douchebag. But they are following the rules of capitalism very strictly: buy lo, sell high, put off payment as long as possible, don't let your effect on others even enter into your thoughts -- and because they've followed these rules so consistently, they're very rich. Very rich, loathesome sociopaths. The AIDS medication douchebag was always smirking in court and during interviews because he knew he was following the rules of capitalism. What's clear neither to him nor to most of the people nauseated by his behavior and smirk is that following the rules of capitalism all the time makes you a disgusting person.

Not all investors are the same, of course. Not all extremely wealthy people are the same. Not all capitalists are capitalists all of the time. Different billionaires get their billions in very different way, and do very, very different things with their billions. If Bernie Sanders grasps that, he's trying very hard to make it seem as if he doesn't. Prejudice is forming opinions about someone based on their membership in a group, rather than regarding them as individuals -- even if that group is the group of billionaires. Some billionaires are socialists to a very great degree, whether Bernie can grasp that or not, and whether the part-socialist billionaires realize it themselves or not.

"Antisocial" means both that you're against socialism and that you're an unpleasant person. "Social" means the same thing in both cases, and also in the case of the term "sociopath." Exactly the same. If you're an investor and you take actions which will tend to extend the life of the petroleum industry and hinder the growth of green energy, because you calculate that it will make you more money, you're a sociopath -- and a perfectly good capitalist. Watch the money shows on TV: the effect which investments will have on others never enters into the conversation unless someone has made a calculation that "green stocks" will make more money than others. On the money show this is all completely out in the open. Nobody's even the slightest bit embarrassed about ruining things for other people. The effect on other people is 100% beside the capitalist point of why they're there.

Capitalism = getting more and more money for yourself. Socialism = making the world a nicer place: cleaner air and water, fewer starving people, etc.

And none of that is exactly rocket science, but very few people are willing to face what they're able to understand about socialism and capitalism, the same way that very few people were able to face the fact that the stories in the New Testament made absolutely no sense, and that is was absurd to base all of society on them, although that, too, was quite plain to see, if one would but look.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nuggets

We're in that awkward in-between time of the year, those few days between when the MacArthur Foundation has disappointed me again and when the Nobel Committee, most likely, will disappointment me again. Get it together guys, this is getting old, and so am I.


I've tried to just take it easy today, because it seemed like I should. Taking it easy is not something which comes naturally to me. I'm always struggling to help the world break on through: past Trump, past two=party systems, past the GOP, past petroleum, past capitalism... Past silly notions that I somehow don't deserve the Mac and the Nobel.

I almost took it so easy today that I didn't blog at all, but I couldn't quite.

Past nationalism, I almost forgot to add. I struggle to get people past the notion that there's something wrong with someone being from somewhere else, the notion that someone should automatically be distrusted because he or she is from somewhere else.

We haven't quite yet gotten to the point where the general public has really faced the fact that capitalism is anti-social, that it calls for sociopaths. Those times when Trump ripped off those he did business with, because he could, and when he and Mitt paid no taxes, because they could, and when that AIDS medication douchebag almost got away with those price hikes -- they were all just being good capitalists. When someone gives someone a break, for that moment they're not being business-savvy. The public has sort of halfway faced these things when they acknowledge that it's dog-eat-dog in the business world.

Anyway. One step at a time: past Trump. Past two-party systems. Past big oil. Keep on strugglin' against that big bad ol' entropy. Get me that damn Nobel...

Have yrselves a nice evening, pardners and cowgirls. A nice lunch, cobbers. A nice every other part of the day or night, every other part of the big spinning blue marble. Don't shoot! Be nice! Play with a kitten, or a doggie or a baby elephant or a human whom you happen to adora and the feeling's mutual, ya lucky cobber!

You see: when I write "mee r munkee. mee luv yu" on this blog, I'm striving. I don't love everybody all the time with the unconditional love you sometime get from well-treated animals. But I admire being able to love like that. I know, monkeys aren't always nice. Sometimes in real life a chimp will rip a person's face off, or so I've heard. On the other hand, sometimes monkeys and people can be nice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

MAKE FACT-CHECKING GREAT AGAIN


Accentuate the positive! I'm really glad I saw this picture. Just a moment before, it was only with some difficulty that I had not replied to a German gentleman on Facebook who said he simply couldn't understand how Amurrka could fall for someone like Trump, and that he was just about through with us --

It was only with great difficulty that I stopped myself from replying, with heavy sarcasm and in polished, elegant German, that he was completely right, and how great it was that Germany had never let itself be taken over by a gang of right-wing thugs --

But instead of sarcastically stirring some Scheisse, I moved on, and I saw this picture, and I reminded myself to accentuate the positive.

Facts. Facts are great. And Hillary's got so much more of them than Donald does.

We're in the home stretch! Let's get pumped up and do this!

And remember -- SOME Germans are being positive and helpful and not taking the opportunity to throw stones in their glass house. So yeah for them too! And for all the rest of the people all around the world who just love us Murrkins to bits and are pulling for us!

As Alec Baldwin sang when he was doing an impression of Tony Bennett on "Saturday night Live," and then the real Tony Bennett joined in, so that it was the ultimate Tony Bennett duet:

I like things that are great!
I don't care about the things that I hate


Solar panels by the hundreds of millions! Expansion of the social safety net! More money for education! Minimum wage bumped up to somewhere between $12.50 and $15 an hour! Hillary!

LET'S MAKE GERMANY PROUD OF MURRKA SOME MORE!

First Debate: Presumably, Now More People Know That Trump Is A Liar

Last night in his first (and maybe last?) debate against Hillary Clinton, Trump said that not paying any taxes shows that he's smart. Then an hour later he denied saying any such thing.

Which makes yesterday a pretty average day for Trump in terms of honesty and integrity. And millions of people have noticed this, and more and more people are noticing.

Trump is following a political strategy which still functioned occasionally a few decades ago, before the Internet, before Presidential candidates were constantly televised. In 1972 Hunter S Thompson wrote about his fellow Democrat and Presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey:

"There is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack Hubert Humphrey is until you've followed him around for a while on the campaign trail."

Because of the changes in technology, today a lot more people "follow the candidates around" via TV and Internet. Back in '72 Humphrey could get away with saying 3 completely different things about an issue in the same day. But today when Trump does it, a tech-savvy 5-year-old can put the video clips together and nail him for it.

I'm not saying that any of this will actually hurt Trump politically. I hope it will. I think it will. But I'm not sure it will. It should be clearer a few days from now, after more polls are in, whether the huge number of people who saw the first debate last night are now more aware that Trump is a lying sack of crap -- even compared to most politicians.

But I'm not sure what effect the debate will have, because I don't understand how Trump has succeeded so far. I really don't know how anybody has ever seen him as anything but a crude snake-oil salesman. I'm hoping that the debate will swing more undecideds from Trump over to Hillary -- but I don't understand how someone can be undecided between Hillary and Trump.

Maybe I just need to put such things into the Nietzschean category of things I don't even want to understand, and move on, and deal with the people with whom I can deal.

As of 3PM, the headlines say that Hillary won the debate by a wide margin, except for some completely crappy biased polls which say Trump won, which are the only polls some right-wing outlets are reporting on. Mendacity.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Excuses

"How can anyone write an entire novel in today's world, with so many media distractions and so forth, bla bla bla!" People who have never actually finished writing a novel have always come up with a lot of excuses for it. That hasn't changed over the centuries. Writing a novel that's any good is extremely difficult. That has also been the same for centuries. There have always been many distractions. People who have written novels have been dissing the ones who made excuses instead, for centuries, and the novelists have always been right.

And then there are the ones, from Vergil to Vikram Seth, who've written fine novels in verse. I stand in awe of them, my cap doffed.

Cervantes, to choose but one example from the novelists, suffered wounds rendering one of his arms permanently paralyzed at the Battle of Lepanto when he was 25 years old. Then he voluntarily spent 3 more years in the Spanish army. Then he spent 5 years as a prisoner of war. And THEN, with one arm, he wrote a whole huge pile of world-renowned literature including one of the best novels ever written.

He wrote all of that stuff instead of whining and making excuses. Not that it would have been very surprising, or even really all that objectionable, at all if a person in his position whined a lot, because, come on.

Most people don't know a lot about how many of their favorite pro athletes accomplished many of their most amazing feats with bruises and contusions and sprains and actual broken bones. That's because sports tends to tear your body up, and top athletes tend not to whine about it too much. Kobe whined about it a lot for some reason, especially when he was so focused for some reason on not getting along with the remarkably-good-tempered Shaq (who played hurt just like Kobe and everybody else), but he was still a great athlete. If you listened a lot to Kobe and didn't investigate the matter much, you might think he was an unusual case as far as the conditions he performed under.

Okay, I need to stop whining about Kobe, I'm getting off track here. Like I say, he was a great athlete.

A lot of great accomplishment in human history have been accompanied by a pronounced tendency not to whine and complain in the face of extraordinary difficulty. I could be wrong, but it seems that most human lives have involved extraordinary difficulty of one kind or another.

It would be interesting to see a list of great novels which were written in prison.

"Hillary Clinton and the DNC rigged the primaries!" No they didn't. And Debbie Wassermann-Schultz did not set out to destroy Bernie Sanders' career. The plain truth is just about exactly the opposite: Bernie Sanders, that non-reality-based paranoid ogre, deliberately ruined Debbie's career -- hopefully only for the moment. Hillary won the nomination, she didn't steal it. But Bernie will always be the Democratic Party's Emperor of Whiny Crybabies.

But of course, in the category of insane, non-reality-based whiny-crybaby excuses, the other party have got us beat hands-down. That orange combover has already been making excuses for a long time for defeats he hasn't even suffered yet: defeats against Hillary in the debates and in November.

I can't imagine anyone with less reason to whine and complain than that whiny crybaby. Except maybe about the size of his penis. That's actually not his own fault.

Alrighty then! Those of us who've been paying attention, let's ramp it up, let's work harder at spreading the news to everybody else, the news that this Presidential campaign is a good, experienced, competent, steady, extremely capable progressive candidate against a whiny orange crybaby who's either an insane bigot or pretending to be one -- and which would be worse?

It's Hillary against a nightmare. Sing it high, sing it low. Go tell it on the mountain. Make the others understand. We have no excuse not to.

Dream Log: A Dime And Nicole Kidman

I had two dreams last night, one about finding an interesting coin, and the other about meeting Nicole Kidman.

The interesting coin was a dime, and I found it on the sidewalk. I was in San Francisco during something called the San Francisco Expedition. (I googles and I couldn't find anything in real life called the San Francisco Expedition.) The Expedition was an annual event where people gathered to discuss the city's history, and other things.

At first the dime appeared to be fairly new, so I was surprised when I saw that its date was 1948. Also, just inside the edge on its reverse (the tails side of a coin is also sometimes called its reverse), there were two gold-colored near-semicircles, one on top and one below, nearly meeting on the left and right, forming a near-circle. Just inside this gold circle in the upper-left quarter of the reverse were raised in relief the words "SAN FRANCISCO EXPEDITION." I think the rest of the relief looked more or less like the relief of a regular FDR dime, maybe made a bit smaller to make room for the gold near-cirle and the extra words, but I don't really remember for sure.

I looked the dime up in a Red Book,


and saw the 1948 San Francisco Expedition dime listed as just slightly more valuable than a regular 1948 dime in uncirculated condition. Google Shopping shows 3 1948 uncirculated dimes for sale, priced $12.50 to $37.50. And no 1948 San Francisco Expedition dimes because they only exist in this dream.

As I was looking in the Red Book, a man said that a friend of his had lost the dime. I gave him the dime and he headed toward his friend, and I followed. The man regarded me suspiciously. He asked me if I expected some kind of award from his friend, or if I might even try to charm his friend into giving me the coin outright.

I pointed out that I had just met him a moment before, and immediately gave him the coin when he said his friend had lost it. I said I didn't know if he was telling the truth about having a friend who lost the coin, but was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I said that the only thing I knew for sure about him was that he was insulting me, assuming right away that I was some kind of crook.

We got to his friend, who was in from out of town for the Expedition, and had a large amount of Expedition-related things: posters from previous Expeditions, various items with "San Francisco Expedition" written or painted or stamped upon them. This collector thanked me profusely for finding his lost dime, and immediately offered to give it to me. I said that I didn't want to take it. "I don't want to break up your collection," I said.

Then the collector's friend and I went out of the collector's earshot and he mumbled something about how he was sorry he'd assumed right away that I might be a crook, and I mumbled something about how I could understand him being very protective of a friend who was so generous toward complete strangers, some of whom, no doubt, actually were crooks, and we shook hands and slapped each other on the shoulder in a very manly way as we mumbled.

Then I was away from those 2 guys, and on a sidewalk, half-straddling a red 12-speed road racing bike I owned in the 1980's. Nicole Kidman walked by and made some remark about the bike. In the dream in appeared that she knew an awful lot about bicycles. I said I had owned the bike since it was new over 30 years ago. (In real life I crashed it and totalled it when it was a couple of years old.) Ms Kidman looked at me and said something to the effect that, yeah, I looked old enough to have owned the bike for 30 years. That hurt me feelings, but I reminded myself that I actually do look like I'm in my 50's, which I am, and that there was no reason to assume that Nicole Kidman was trying to be mean. On the contrary, she was very nice. It was just quite clear that she didn't find me attractive, and that it didn't occur to her that that might hurt my feelings. (This was much more realistic than a bunch of other recent dreams I've had in which movie stars have found me irresistable.)

Anyway, pretty soon she had to go -- understandable, since she was Nicole Kidman and most likely had a busy schedule, and had not fallen hopelessly in love with me -- and she said, "Well, I guess you want to take a selfie with me." That was understandable, too: most strangers who meet Nicole Kidman probably want to take selfies with her. Like I said, she was being very nice.

I, too, was trying to be very nice and to make it clear that I appreciated that she was being very nice, but that, unlike most people, I really didn't care about selfies, or autographs, or any of those celebrity-related things.

I really don't. I know which famous people and other bigshots I've met, and I don't need to keep physical evidence of it to impress others. I just don't feel the need, one, and two, I know that the famous people get way too many requests for those things as it is without me piling on. I have never in my life asked for an autograph or a selfie next to a famous person.

That's not true: I've done it once in my life. One time, when I was much younger and more susceptible to peer pressure, I was at a reading by a poet in a bookstore in Germany, and since everybody else bought the poet's latest paperback and waited in line for him to sign it, so did I. The experience made me very uncomfortable. Well, here's to growing out of the susceptibility to peer pressure!

Anyway, before we got to the point where I was about to take a selfie purely for Nicole Kidman's sake rather than keep on trying to explain that I didn't need one, although I really thought she was being very nice -- I woke up.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chess Log: Computer Problems

Last night I was playing chess on the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS), as I have almost every day for, I believe, 12 years. Right now I can't check how long it's been. Ordinarily I'd just go the main console of the Babaschess interface, enter f and my profile would appear, with my overall record for the whole time I've been playing there, my highest official rating, and more info, including the date I joined.

But now when I go to Babaschess, instead of seeing my FICS setup, I see a screen which is grey from edge to edge. I don't know if I did that, or if there's a problem because of the Recent Big Update, or if FICS has closed up shop. I'm pretty sure I did it. More often than I'd like, I unintentionally hit a wrong key and change what's on my PC screen -- the size of a chessboard for example -- and have some difficulty changing it back. Often when I try to change things back I just make things worse.

It's possible that I have that problem unusually severely. That problem, the wetware interface, may be 100% responsible for the grey screen with no controls at my disposal.

I spent some time last night trying to fix my Babaschess connection, then trying to set up another FICs interface, and then I gave up. I said to myself that this could turn out great. For example, I told myself that I could spend all of the time I had spent on chess improving my Latin instead. (It wasn't the first time I had told myself exactly that.) Or maybe I could enjoy chess just by studying chess books.

So this morning, about 5 minutes after I turned on my computer, I looked for other online chess servers, and right away I found Lichess, which I hadn't known existed, and now I play at Lichess. The chess at Lichess is all on the Lichess website, there's no need to a player to set up his or her own interface.

I had been playing at FICS since around 2004, and Lichess launched in 2010, while I was right exactly in the middle of not looking for any other places to play chess.

Maybe I'll actually look around for still other online chess options (this is a very non-autistic thing to say). Maybe FICS is still around and I'll eventually figure out the interface issue. It's not a high-tech issue, or I never would have been able to set up an interface all by myself to begin with, but it's also not as low-tech as playing on Lichess' website. (But even at Lichess, I accidentally made the board much smaller, then somehow made it big again, and haven't figured out how to change its size since then. This is what my life is like.)

Maybe I'll also study those chess books more in addition to playing on line, and also work harder on my Latin, and have a happy well-rounded life. Who knows, maybe I'll even develop friendships to the point where other people, hypothetical future friends of mine, will visit my home and not mind taking a crack at fixing my interfaces and explaining why things suddenly vanish or change because I accidentally hit a key. Maybe they would even know how to change my PC to the point that accidentally hitting a single key would no longer have such disastrous power. It would be a friggin miracle if I could just change some settings so that I can no longer do something I don't want to do by accidentally hitting one key or swiping my mouse incorrectly or whatever the $%#$%#$@#* @#$%^&#$% ^%$# it is.

Maybe -- I have no way of knowing at this moment -- I would learn all about things like that in the first day of a computer class or the first page of a computers-for-dummies type book.

Maybe life will be wonderful even before I become rich and famous. Wouldn't that be weird.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

mee r munkee. mee thinking bout wot itt all meenz

mee r munkee. mee luv yu. mee bin thnkin bout wot it all meenz.

mee let yu no sune az everthng start maikng senss.

bee4, mee nevr think bout thngs like, wot du it all meen? bee4, mee thnk questyuns laik thatt werr meeningluss.

maibee mee werr rite bee4.

mee think Jean-Paul Sartre wurr gud munkee. mee allwaze thnk that bout Jean-Paul Sartre. mee yuz tu totullee nott laik Plato. mee not totullee laik Plato, now, butt fyoo yeerz uhgo, mee reelize: nobuddee ever seen purfuk surrkurl, butt everbuddee no wot purrfuk suurkurl iz.

nobuddee everr haff tuh splain tuh nobuddee wot uh purfek surrkurl iz kuzz everbuddee allreddee no. that blo munkees mind. an, iff munkee unnerstan Plato theeree uv formz rite, that ukzaklee wot Plato wurr talkin bout. that blo munkeez mind mor. munkee wurr no longr abl tu dissmiss Plato.

munkee furst hurd bowt Plato's theeree uv formz, i don no, wen he wer 15 or so. thenn, wen munkee 50 or so, he reelee here wot plato sed. an he kant blo it off. Plato no longr seem lik totull dushbag tu munkee.

that momunt, wen hee 50 or so, wen he reelee here wot plato say bout surklz, and reelize, that Plate izz rite, that turn everthng topsee-turvee 4 munkee. maybee that bout same time munkee start wunnerin wot it all meen.

munkee dunno. that all 4 now. mee luv yu, yr verr nice person, thnk yu verr mutch pleez! baibai!

Friday, September 23, 2016

I Sense A Disturbance In The Force --

-- as if millions of people cried out in pain at once, because each of them had to wait 3 hours for an update.

I didn't know this was coming, I'm not a techie and I don't usually even browse the tech headlines.

It ALWAYS takes a while. So this time, when it actually SAID: "This will take a while." , I said, Hey, good thing I got all of these books! I learned a lot about early-20th-century American Progressives this morning, from Samuel Eliot Morison's Oxford History of the American People. But since I still haven't found out which key it is that I sometimes accidentally hit that makes an entire line vanish, nor if there's anyway to un-do it -- I had to write the previous line twice. (Too much power for 1 key if you ask me, but obviously, nobody's asking me about any of this crap, they're just doing it and expecting me to think it's all just wonderful.)

Several post-update hours, and so far, no freezes for me. My PC was occasionally freezing BEFORE the update and I'm hoping that's fixed now. (Like I have any idea how likely or unlikely that is.)

I don't know why they had to change the desktop background. It's going to be a mild-to-medium PITA to remember how I changed it before the update so I change it back to what I changed it to before the update, but I'll live.

I already hid that pesky "Ask me anything" doodad. Hmm... Wonder if I should un-hide it and ask it to change my desktop background color back to the way it was...

Alrightythen. After a little while I figured out what it was trying to tell me, and I've changed the background, but not to what I thought I was asking for. I've got no time for this particular PITA right now. Hope it's going to be the only one -- HAHAHAHAAAAA!!!

Sparrows

There are a lot of sparrows near where I live. This morning there were dozens of them in the street just outside of my place. I think they were drawn there by the black walnuts falling out of the tree out there. (One of them fell very close to me when I was outside yesterday. I don't think one has ever hit me on the head yet, but I'm not completely sure about that. Maybe you'd think I'd remember something like that for sure. I would tend to think so too, and yet here we are.)

A couple of crows were messing with the sparrows, swooping in from time to time to time where there was a crowd and chasing them away from the best food. I saw a couple of robins in the area too. There were not being aggressive like the crows.

Once there was a loud thud nearby, from construction or maybe a truck hitting a pothole, I don't know. But all of the sparrows zoomed away together in a cloud, and then in a short while they were back.

Besides the sparrows and robins, cardinals are at home just outside. The crows come and go, and occasionally seagulls and bluejays can be seen. passing through. I've seen some others I haven't been able to identify yet, about the size of robins or maybe slightly bigger, grey and light brown, passing through.

I saw the movie The Big Year a few years ago, good movie, and it really fired me up about birding (they call it birding, not bird-watching), but I didn't actually follow through and become a birder (not a bird-watcher). But I've become very fond of the sparrows. Sparrows is what we mostly have here, bird-wise, and I've spent a lot of time watching them and listening to them, and I like them more and more.

Some people in the neighborhood have bird feeders in their yards. I haven't gotten to the point of feeding them yet. As it is, it occurred to me this morning that there are so many of them, some people might consider it an infestation. I don't know, maybe nobody thinks of it that way. But there are a lot of them. It's fine with me. My car definitely gets spattered, but to me it's a small price to pay. The sparrows are cute to look at -- so tiny! -- and their singing is pleasant.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Can Anybody Possibly Think Trump And Hillary Are The Same?

Okay, just finished blocking a few more people on Facebook who claim that "America is faced with two terrible choices in November."

Who's dumber: people who support Trump, or people who can't see any difference between Clinton and Trump? Does it matter? Both groups are pretty dumb.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: the 2016 Presidential election may be decided by shaking shiny objects in front of undecided voters.

If you can't see any difference between Trump and Hillary, go see a doctor immediately. It may be a huge brain tumor.

Or maybe you just plain haven't been paying attention. Here are a few things Trump has said lately, in public, right in front of crowds, right into microphones, on purpose:

“An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”

“Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again – just watch. He can do much better!”

“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”

“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

“It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”

“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”

“I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.”

“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

“You’re disgusting.” (In court, to a woman asking the judge for a break to breast-feed her baby.)

“The point is, you can never be too greedy.”

“My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”

“My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

“I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”

“The other candidates — they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioning didn’t work. They sweated like dogs…How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

“Look at those hands, are they small hands? And Rubio referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

“The only card Hillary has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

“Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women, more than anybody in the construction industry.”


But how could you not know already that he says things like that all the time, and how could you not be appalled, and disgusted by someone who says such things? How could anyone be impressed by such a person, and want him to be a leader of any kind, let alone President?

File that under things I don't really want to know. If I seem particularly grumpy it's because I am. Politics sometimes makes me very grumpy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wahre Geschichten von meinem Leben. Teil 3: Currywurst in der Berliner U-Bahn.

(100% WAHR. )

Jemand sagte gerade, die beste Currywurst sei diejenige in Ess-Bahn, Texl. Ess-Bahn kenn ich nicht. Aber besonders stark in meiner Erinnerung, von den 4 oder 5mal die ich es bisher Currywurst gegesssen habe, bleibt die von einer kleinen Bude auf dem Bahnsteig irgendwo in der Berliner U-Bahn. Vielleicht war es nur, dass ich besonders starken Hunger hatte (Ich war sehr lange kreuz und quer allein zu Fuss durch die grosse schoene Stadt gegengen, und manchmal macht es mir Spass, besonders schnell zu Fuss zu gehen), aber die Wurst war ausgezeichnet.

Auch zur Zeit dachte ich mir (denn ich bin wirklich kein Gourmet): vielleicht ist es nur, weil ich solche Hunger hatte. Trotzdem sagte ich dem Koch, der vielleicht auch der Inhaber war, und jedenfalls der einzige andere Mensch in der Stube zu der Zeit "Ahh, das war gut!" Und seht da, meine Kinder: der duerre Mann, der bisher stets ausgesprochen saur geschaut hatte, der laechelte tatsaechlich, und nickte.

Das gab mir den Eindruck, dass es vielleicht mehr als nur mein Hunger gewesen war, dass vielleicht der duerre saure Mann wirklich einiges konnte und hatte berechtigten Stolz darauf, und war saur ua weil er dann und wann ein wenig Anerkennung wollte, auch wenn es nur wegen einer Currywurst von einer Bude in der U-Bahn war.

True Stories From My Life. Part 1: Me And Joey Ramone

True Stories From My Life. Part 2: Me And Allen Ginsberg

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An "Everybody's With Her" T-Shirt

Hopefully somebody's already beat me to this: A T-shirt covered with all sizes of the "I'm with her" logo. In addition to the original "I'm with her," there would be a "Bernie's with her" logo, and "Barack's with her," and "Elizabeth's with her."

"Scowcroft's with her." "Paulson's with her." "Armitrage is with her." "The Dallas Morning News is with her." "Apparently all of the Bushes are with her."

"Madonna's with her."

"Generals Sennewald and Maddox are with her."

"The Teamsters are with her." "A majority of business economists in a new survey are with her." "WIRED is with her." "Sarah Silverman is with her." "Cher's with her. "DiCaprio's with her." "Montel Williams is with her." "Ru Paul's with her."

"The Simpsons are with her."

"Mark Cuban's with her." "Caroline McCain's with her." "Michael Bloomberg's with her." "The US Hispanic Camber of Commerce is with her."

"The AFL-CIO's with her." "The CWA's with her." "The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of Teachers, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Longshoremen’s Association, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the International Union of Operating Engineers are with her."

"Oprah's with her." "Louis CK's with her." "Jesse Jackson's with her."

You get the idea.

Civilization In Europe And The US

Today I saw a hidden-camera video made in Germany: a man with rather long hair and a scruffy beard, wearing jeans and a denim jacket, pretends to have some sort of collapse in a downtown area. He appears to have trouble breathing, he staggers around, clutches at his chest, and gradually sinks from a standing position down to the ground. Many people stare but walk away. Finally, not long before he would be lying flat on his back, a young woman rushes to his aid. A moment after that, seeming to follow her example, several others run toward him also.

Then we cut to a very close-up camera -- the man who pretended to collapse is standing up again, he's beaming. He tells the people who came to help: "I'm fine. It was only a test. You did very well."

Then the same man gets a haircut, gets his beard trimmed, is put into a very nice suit and coat, pretends to be having the same sort of problem in the very same downtown area -- and almost immediately he's surrounded by people who want to help him.

Among the comments from the people watching the video: refusing to help the man when his appearance was scruffier was, among other deplorable things, "against the law" ("strafbar").

Against the law. I live in the US, and the laws having to do with homeless people vary greatly from place to place. In many if not most localities, homelessness is not treated as a condition requiring that others help, but as a crime itself. I immediately thought of a video taken recently in Florida by a bystander, in which a police officer slapped and arrested a homeless man for trying to use a public restroom.

I also thought of another video made recently in the US: a hidden-camera setup very much like the German one: a person in shabby clothes pretended to be in trouble in a downtown urban area; then the very same person was groomed a bit and put into nicer clothes, and behaved in exactly the same way in exactly the same place. Just as in the German video, the first time, the person in a scruffy exterior was ignored by passers-by for quite a long time, and the very same person after a trip to a salon and put into rich-people clothes was helped immediately.

In the comments of the people watching this video, it didn't seem to occur to anyone that not helping this person in trouble because of an unkempt appearance could be against the law. Oh, by the way: in this video, instead of a man pretending to physically collapse, the person who appeared to be in trouble was a little girl, maybe five years old, screaming for help and pretending to cry.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chess Log: Two Quick Ones

I played White both games.

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. ♗b5 ♘c6 5. ♘f3 ♗f5 6. ♘e5 ♕c7 7. ♘c3 a6 8. ♘xd5 ♕a5 9. ♗d2! ♕xb5?? 10. ♘c7! 1-0 {Black resigns}

I almost didn't think of 9. ♗d2. Not world-championship-level stuff here.

Even quicker:

1. e4 ♘f6 2. e5 ♘d5 3. d4 d6 4. ♘f3 ♗g4 5. ♗e2 e6 6. O-O ♗e7 7. h3 ♗xf3 8. ♗xf3 dxe5? 9. c4! 1-0 {Black resigns}

I suppose Black should have played 8. ... ♘c6.

There, I Said It Some More!

I'm Amurrkin, and yet I've never worn a fanny pack, in the US or anywhere else, nor do I plan to start wearing one. But you know what I find much more ridiculous and pathetic and deplorable than fanny packs? The amount of time and energy which has been expending mocking Amurrkins wearing fanny packs. Also -- is it really only Amurrkins who wear them? You know what -- I don't care -- THERE, I SAID IT!

There is no such thing as a slow news day, only a slow news industry -- THERE, I SAID IT!

Jessica Biel is cute --THERE, I SAID IT!

The Trump campaign is only one of the examples of how the rest of us constantly have to clean up after you MORONS --THERE, I SAID IT!

When speaking complex sentences, the celebrity chefs and other show hosts of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel do not match the quantity of verbs with the verbs' subjects, and this has been going on for decades now -- THERE, I SAID IT!

When I was young I wished I was a chimp -- THERE, I SAID IT!

As the years go by, I find some authors more and more interesting. The opposite has occurred with my reading experience of Dostoyevsky. It's amazing to me to recall that as a teenager I read Crime and Punishment eagerly from cover to cover. And it wasn't even required reading in any class. Now I can barely sum up the interest to read an entire page of that book or any other by Dostoyesvsky. I have no idea what role translations may be playing in this problem. Maybe it's not a problem: maybe I'm just ahead of the curve. Yesterday and today I tried again in vain to interest myself in a pile of Dostoyesvsky paperbacks. Oh, and lest I forget it: no doubt I've lied about the following more than a few times: I've never read The Brothers Karamazov. I've never even read "The Grand Inquisitor," and that definitely was required reading in more than one class I took -- THERE, I SAID IT!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Happy "What-If" Thoughts

What if all the people from Trump's campaign who appear on news shows every day, babbling non-stop nonsense in the attempt to defend Trump's non-stop nonsense, all quit together in a big group, and instead of disappearing from public view like the many others who have quit or been fired from leading positions in Trump's campaign -- what if they all had a joint news conference, where they said things like:

"Just like attorneys sometimes have clients they despise, but they defend actions of those clients which they find deplorable because it's their job, so sometimes political operatives work for candidates we despise. Sometimes, that's our job. And holding a news conference like this one instead of quietly fading from public view as we're expecting to do if we quit -- holding a press conference like this one might end our careers. Maybe no politician could ever trust us again. But making sure that that lying sack of crap Donald Trump never gets anywhere near being Commander-in-Chief of anything is more important to all of us than the risk that we might never get a job in politics again. I'd rather bus tables and wash dishes alongside some of the many fine, hardworking undocumented Latin American laborers in this country, and be able to look my children in the eye again, than to go on one more day perpetrating the nightmare that is Donald Trump's political career."

"I'd like to second everything Kellyanne said -- all of us would -- and we know that Trump might sue all of us for what we're doing today. That's what he does, isn't it: he sues people. He lies about people. He lies about his own past and his businesses. He preys on people who aren't capable of protecting themselves very well. He stirs up hate. Hate based on stupidity and lies."

"The other day my son said to me, 'Dad, are you really telling people they should be afraid of you and me and Mom, because we're Mexican?' That was the final straw for me. I apologized to my son that minute for saying those things, and now I want to apologize to the rest of the world. Wow -- this feels good! This feels really good! Actually saying the truth, and making sense, right out here in public! I'm sorry, and I hope that with God's help I never do anything so disgraceful again!"


What if Jill Stein and Gary Johnson both withdrew from the race and urged all of their supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton,

"because stopping Donald Trump may be the most important thing you ever do!"

What if Bernie actually starting campaigning hard for Hillary, instead of just continuing to campaign against Trump and suggest that Hillary is the 2nd-worst option?

What if Rush Limbaugh started off one of his programs saying,

"I've got to get this off of my big fat chest. I've got to be able to look at myself in the mirror again: from the time I first learned that Hillary Clinton existed, I've been lying about her non-stop. I never had any reason to believe she or Bill ever did anything bad to their friend Vince Foster. I never had any reason to believe they behaved improperly in regard to the Whitewhater corporation. As to the Monica Lewinsky affair, I think the person who behaved worse was Kenneth Starr. He should have wrapped up his fishing expedition -- which began with him looking into Whitewater, remember? -- long before he ever heard of Ms Lewinski, and he should have told the public that after a long and exhausting investigation he had found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons. I've been lying about Hillary Clinton's character non-stop, year-in, year-out, and --"

Okay, back down to Earth. I'm getting carried away. The odds of Rush saying those kinds of things are... Well, who knows.

It's just a question of how many MORE people who normally never would endorse a Democrat, will endorse Hillary. That's already quite an impressive demographic.

Cheer up. We haven't lost yet.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ulrich Bollinger, ? -- 1609, Imperial Poet Laureate And Guy With Same Last Name As Me

Ulrich Bollinger was a poet laureate of the Holy Roman Empire from not later than 1596 until 1609.

I... don't know how to feel about this.

I say that Ulrich Bollinger was a poet laureate of the Empire and not the poet laureate of the Empire, because it seems that there were 1300 poets laureate of the Empire altogether, which means there were more than 1 at a time.

The philologist, poet, playwright, mathematician, and astronomer Philipp Nicodemus Frischlin was Bollinger's mentor. Frischlin, besides becoming both a poet laureate and a no-foolin' count before the age of 30 as reward for his brilliant writing, seems to have repeatedly gotten into trouble for having a big mouth. I don't know what the problem was, more specifically than that Frischlin kept saying or writing things which more prudent people did not, and that because of this he had to move, or flee, from Tübingen to Ljubljana to Frankfurt am Main to Strasbourg to Marburg to Mainz. In 1590 he was arrested and imprisoned in a fortress near Reutlingen, and the same year, barely 43 years old, he died in an attempt to escape.

It seems that Ulrich Bollinger is more well known for his relationship with the brilliant and reckless Frischlin, and specifically for the edition and publication in 1599 of Frischlin's Hebraeis, an epic 6000 verses long based on stories from the Old Testament, than for anything else.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Stupidest List I've Ever Seen

This is the stupidest list I've ever seen in my life -- and I read a lot of rock criticism up until 1978 1981:

The top 10 reasons Bruce Springsteen sucks, by Victor Fiorello.

Well, okay: I read PART of it. You don't have to drink the whole ocean to know it's salty.

I saw the headline, and I clicked on it, thinking that this Fiorello character, whoever he is, might have some serious reservations about Bruuuuuuuce, and/or something else interesting to say. Someone's been in the public eye as long as Bruuuuuuce, no matter how perfect there are, there probably are a few legitimate gripes to be had. But no, that's not what's going on here. Fiorello's lists consists of things like "the earring," and "the sax, cuz sax is spose ta be in jazz an stuff, not in rock." (I can give you lots of examples that Mr Fiorello is wrong about this one, all from one band, and, just in case you share his strange distaste for Bruuuuuce, not the E Street Band: "Brown Sugar." "Live With Me." About half of Exile on Main St. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking." "Miss You." "Slave." "Waiting On a Friend." Etc. Etc. Etc.) I didn't even read his reasons why "The Streets of Philadelphia" is on the list. I assume, since this crap list is in Philadelphia Magazine, that Fiorello, no doubt one a them born and bred, tried and true, I was born here and goddangit I'm uh gonna die here types for whom the phrase "local yokel" was coined, and who are by no means confined to Philadelphia, although every local variety of moron believes it is special, objected to something about the song and/or the video and/or Jonathan Demme's movie because he felt it to be inauthentically Philadelphian in some way -- like someone other than Fiorello's 12 dedicated readers cares about his ideas of the authentically Philadelphian..

I assume that this piece was written in 10 minutes just before Fiorello's filing deadline, when he was badly hung-over, because he drinks a lot, because every afternoon he wakes up and realizes once again that, whatever he might have dreamed that day, he is Victor Fiorello, and he always has been, and he always will be, and there's nothing he can do about it.

I assume that some of Fiorello's work was written in less of a rush and is better than this -- but luckily for me, there's no reason that I will ever have to find out. And thank God that the vast majority of people who live in Philadelphia are nothing at all -- at ALL -- like this I'm-an-asshole-and-I'm -proud-of-it-so-fuck-you Philly stereotype. It's just a very small but very loud minority, throwing things onto the field at sporting events, getting into fistfights over cheesesteak sandwiches, staying drunk on Rolling Rock and making life in Philadelphia somewhat harder than it needs to be for all the rest. Stay strong, rest of Philadelphia! The world loves you and knows what you put up with!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I Do Not Know Much About Literary Theory

I still have two books I obtained during my last, quite unsuccessful year in grad school: Neue Literaturtheorien - Eine Einführung, edited by Klaus-Michael Bogdal, from its 1st printing in 1990, and Elemente der literarischen Rhetorik by Heinrich Lausberg, in its 9th printing from 1987. 2 books with covers which look like right-angled minimalist modern art on white backgrounds.

At this very minute, perhaps for the first time in a quarter-century, it occurs to me that perhaps I associate the 2 books with each other because of the spare designs of their white covers, and that perhaps the look of the covers and the fact that both of them baffle me is about the sum of what they have in common.

Amazon's German website says of the book edited by Bogdal: "Die Einführung in die neuen Literaturtheorien erfreut sich seit ihrem Erscheinen 1990 großen Zuspruchs." ("The Introduction to New Literary Theories has been in great demand since its first appearance in 1990.") That makes it sound like it's been a huge success and gone through many editions since 1990, but it's copied from the back cover of the 3rd edition of 1993, which is the newest edition I can find. Oops.

Yesterday I dug out my copy of this collection of pieces on literary theories which were new in 1990, edited by Klaus-Michael Bogdal, because the phrase "the text itself" came into my mind as I observed some people who were turned off by a new novel without having read it yet, because they felt it had been over-hyped, and I felt that that was an odd reaction, because whether the publisher behaved in an annoying or asinine way or not, it wasn't going to make the novel -- "the text itself" -- one bit better or worse than it was. So I thought, maybe, at last, I would find some way of understanding Bogdal's book by way of my attitudes toward "the text itself." But when I googled the phrase "the text itself," I found associations to something which had called itself the New Criticism in the mid-20th century, and I was not at all sure whether this New Criticism had anything at all to with Bogdal's late-20th-century new literary theories -- other than their both having to do with literature. I can't find any references to Eliot, Brooks or Tate, leaders of the often conservative-to-reactionary New Criticism, in Dr Bogdal index, which seems much farther to the left, with its many references to Foucault, Freud, Marx and Derrida.

Then again, despite grave Right-Left political differences, perhaps the New Criticism's attitude toward "the text itself" had been adopted by people like Foucault and Derrida? Perhaps it has become quite widely adopted since the mid-20th century?

I don't know. I can barely get through one sentence in Bogdal's book. "Obwohl beide, Derrida und de Man, eine prinzipielle Differenz zwischen philosophischen und literarischen Texten verneinen, bleibt als Frage, ob und inwiefern sich literarische und philosophische Texte zu ihrer textuellen Bestimmtheit unterschiedlich verhalten." What?! Ohhhh, my brain! My brain! Owwwwww!

Lausberg (1912-1992), in addition to his Elemente der literarischen Rhetorik, wrote a Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik, which contained about 6 times as many pages as the Elemente, and had a 4th printing in 2008. In the graduate class in which we used the Elemente, I'm pretty sure reference was made to the Handbuch, as something which some of us would surely want to look into sometime later in our careers.

That's about all I can tell you about literary rhetoric. I'm still not sure whether to classify it under literary theory. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that literary theory is to rhetoric as fruit is to wristwatch.

I. Don't. Know.

Just as it only now occurs to me that the greatest point of relationship between Bogdal's book and Lausberg's may be the designs of the covers,



so too have I only now begun to wonder whether my great difficulty with both of these books may be examples of something which up until now I assumed didn't exist: autism interfering with my comprehension of things taught in classrooms. I don't remember any of the other grad students reacting negatively to either of these books or appearing to panic in the grip of dire cluelessness.

You know, now that I've started to think about it, I think there have been a lot of items on that list -- the list of things taught in classrooms which I never understood because I'm autistic -- rather than zero. But this may have been -- this may continue to be -- one of the prime examples, one of the most difficult things.

Or two completely different extremely difficult things which I continue to erroneously associate with each other because of 2 coincidentally similar-looking book covers.

A quarter-century ago I was egregiously hostile toward Bogdal's book. I wonder how obvious it was to my fellow grad students and whoever was teaching the class where we used this book that I was lashing because subconsciously I was afraid because I was clueless? I'm not hostile to either of the books today. I enjoy holding them, uncomprehendingly, like a monkey. Especially since I covered their covers with scotch tape.

Dream Log: Big-Time NCAA Basketball

I've dreamed about this at least one time before: I was an incoming freshman on a big-time NCAA basketball team. I don't really know anything about what that would be like, but it seems to me that there were unrealistically many players on the team, even before a lot of players might be cut. It was more like the number of players on a football team, or maybe even more than that.

We were inside a sprawling facility with many full-sized courts and many other rooms and halls, all for the basketball team's use. The walls and ceilings, and our practice uniforms, all tended to be white. And the towels were also white, as they tend to be in gyms.

At one point a bunch of us -- not all of the players. Maybe all of the new players -- were sitting on benches lining both walls of a long white hallway, and a coach was talking to us. He said that we had many things which most students at the university did not have: much bigger dorm rooms. Much better food, as much as we wanted to eat. Massages and steam rooms. and many other things. The coach said that it was not fair that we had all of these advantages. He didn't mention easy, basket-weaving-type classes designed to allow us to graduate without being distracted very much from athletics, but I assumed that that was one of the advantages he was talking about.

The coach also said that we were expected to work very, very hard if we wanted to stay on the team, exerting ourselves physically at a level which most of the students at that university would never be able to imagine. He said that this, also, was unfair. Life was unfair, the coach said. He said that if we didn't know that already, hopefully we would learn at least that much while we were at this university. He added that some of us would not be here long at all: another example of life's basic unfairness. He added that we would be burning several times as many calories as most of those of the other students who were very active, and that that meant that we had to be sure to eat enough, or we would pass out from the exertion.

The player sitting to my right began to mutter as the coach talked about eating. He was definitely short for a basketball player, and he looked a bit pudgy too. I tried not to let him distract me from what the coach was saying, but he leaned in close to me and informed me that he was a member of PETA and that he planned to disrupt the carnivorous behavior of the team. I stood up and moved away from him.

Later, on one of the many practice courts where a large crowd of us each had our own ball and were practicing long-range jumpers, I recognized someone I knew from life before college. I hadn't known he was a basketball player. He was not wearing a white T-shirt and shorts like the rest of us, but a grungy light-brown denim jacket, very old and torn, and old greyish painter's pants. He looked at me and gave me an ominous grin and said something. I got away from him as soon as a I could. I didn't want to hang around with anyone who wasn't completely focused on playing basketball as well as possible.

My arms began to cramp up and I headed to the massage room. And then I woke up, and realized that my arms weren't actually cramping: they were too cold because the windows were open and it had cooled off outside and the fan was on. I turned the fan off and felt much better.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Have Not Yet Read Any Of Christian Kracht's Work

In 1983 I read a negative review of The Tennis Handsome, a novel by Barry Hannah, of whom I had previously heard nothing, in which the little there was of actual concrete description of the novel was so much more interesting than the reviewer that I read the book, and soon had read all of Hannah's books.

They are magnificent. The Tennis Handsome is the 4th of the 8 novels he would eventually write before passing away in 2010 at age 67. He also wrote 5 collections of short stories.

Some of the characters in Hannah's fiction are racists. I heard one radio interview with him, I think it may have been on Terry Gross' program "Fresh Air." I remember that the interviewer mentioned that the racist characters in his fiction had made some readers wonder whether Hannah himself was racist. Hannah responded that he attempted in his writing to portray racism as it is: ugly and ignorant and destructive.

That had always seemed to me to be his intent.

Christian Kracht is now 49 years old. He is Swiss and writes in German. So far he has published 5 novels, 3 books of travel writing, a screenplay, and a bunch of other stuff which I'm not entirely sure how to categorize. From 2004 to2006 he published the literary journal Der Freund, which won a couple of awards. Like Hannah decades ago, he's beginning to interest me now because of negative reaction to his work which strikes me as ridiculous. Just as with Hannah, if so many people who are so tedious dislike Kracht so much, he must be doing something right.

But I don't really know yet, because I haven't read any of his work. His last publication is Die Toten, (The Dead), published 5 days ago, a novel about German filmmakers early in the Nazi era who plan to make a horror movie in Japan.

From the amount of attention Die Toten is getting in some circles, you might think it was Amazon's #1 bestseller in Germany. It's #122. I can't find it at all on Amazon's US website, which surprises me. Anyway, #122 is a long ways from #1 for a book released 5 days ago, but Kracht has won several literary prizes including the Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis, which comes with 30,000 Euros, and for someone who's won the prizes Kracht has won before age 50, #122 is high enough on the bestseller list to upset a lot of German-speaking literary critics and literary bloggers. (Each of whom has not won anywhere near 30,000 Euros' worth of literary prizes.)

My reaction now is much as was 33 years ago, reading that stupid negative review of Hannah: I may not like Kracht's work at all. But there's no way that his writing is anywhere near as bad as that of all of these people dissing him. I believe I'm going to have to give Kracht a try.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

There Needs To Be A Website Dedicated To Investigating The Authenticity Of Einstein Quotes

I need to to stop investigating the Einstein quotes myself before it literally drives me insane. The problem of fake Einstein quotes is huge. Much too big for me. The breaking point came this evening when I saw a post on Facebook from a FB group claiming to be pro-science, and claiming that Einstein said, "Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them."

None of the sources I've found attributing this to Einstein seem to have heard of attribution. None of the sites I've found with a page which sorts out false Einstein quotes deals with this one. Which doesn't mean that I should accept it as genuine, because of the volume of false Einstein quotes.

By the way, I must apologize, because I've told sold people that "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" is from Einstein. I still think it's a fairly good saying, but apparently someone else came up with it.

I repeat: the problem of fake Einstein quotes is much too big for me to tackle. It may be too big for any one person to handle, even the sharpest, most dedicated Einstein biographer. An entire website may not be enough. An entire institute may be needed. I can't solve the problem: all I can do is point at it and scream, "Help!"

No, actually, there's one more thing I can do while I'm here. I can explain a term I used above in this post: attribution. That's simply saying where you got a quote.

Strictly speaking, in the row of words:

"Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them." -- Albert Einstein,

Albert Einstein is an attribution. If I wanted to give the most exact attribution I could, I would write:

"Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them." -- Albert Einstein, according to some Internet sources about whose reliability I know nothing.

What I was looking for was something like the title of a book from which the quote was taken, or, even better, the title of a book and a page number. Or the name of a magazine which interviewed Einstein, or a radio station which aired remarks by Einstein, and the date when they did so. This wouldn't completely solve the issue of the authenticity of the quote, but it would be a big help.

Let's take the example of a famous quote which I believe to genuine:

"Without music, life would be a mistake." -- Friedrich Nietzsche.

That's a translation of

"Ohne Musik waere das Leben ein Irrtum" -- Freidrich Nietzsche.

A more detailed attribution would be

"Ohne Musik waere das Leben ein Irrtum" -- Freidrich Nietzsche, Goetzen-Daemmerung.

("Goetzen-Daemmering" is the title of Nietzsche's book which is usually translated into English as Twilight of the Idols.)

Or, if I wanted to be as helpful as I possibly could be to someone who might be wondering whether that really is a genuine quote from Nietzsche, I could give them everything I have, in the same manner in which you may have been taught in school to write footnotes:

"Ohne Musik waere das Leben ein Irrtum" -- Freidrich Nietzsche, Goetzen-Daemmerung, "Sprueche und Pfeile, 33. Frankfurt aM and Leipzig: insel taschenbuch, 2000, p 15.

If the person who wonders whether "Without music, life would be a mistake" is from Nietzsche doesn't trust me, he can get a copy of the book I've cited and look for aphorism 33 on page 15. If he doesn't trust the publisher of the book, Insel Verlag, to have gotten it right (Insel have a fairly good reputation), he can investigate the Nietzsche's publishing history and manuscripts. As the agnostics are constantly and uselessly telling us, nothing can ever be absolutely proven. But

"Ohne Musik waere das Leben ein Irrtum" -- Freidrich Nietzsche, Goetzen-Daemmerung, "Sprueche und Pfeile, 33. Frankfurt aM and Leipzig: insel taschenbuch, 2000, p 15.

is somewhat better in this regard than

"Without music, life would be a mistake." -- Friedrich Nietzsche.

Mr X Is Wrong: People Aren't Suckers For The Truth

Hillary's right: at least half of Trump's supporters are a basket of deplorables. They've got a lot of problems. One thing which would help them out a lot with many of those problems, the same way it helps most people, is better education. And about the last guy who's going to give them better education is the orange-and-blonde doofus they're supporting. He's lying to them more than he's lying to anyone else -- which is a lot.

You ever see Oliver Stone's movie JFK, with Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison, the real-life New Orleans DA trying forlornly to solve the case of JFK's murder while being attacked from all sides by pathological liars? The most striking part of the movie is the one with Donald Sutherland as Mr X, the ex-military intelligence guy who tells Garrison, very convincingly, that he could prove that a widespread conspiracy within the US government removed JFK because LBJ was more amenable to their program of military build-up and escalated war in Vietnam -- a build-up they favored because it was making them billions of dollars in profits. That is, he could prove it, except that no-one would believe him if came forward, plus he'd be sent to a mental hospital for the rest of his life, or worse, by the people he accused.

Anyway, Mr X tells Garrison, attempting to encourage him to continue fighting the good fight and bring the real killers to justice: "People are suckers for the truth."

Sounds nice, but I think it's 3 words too long: people are suckers, period. If people were suckers for the truth, a widespread government conspiracy wouldn't have been able to kill JFK for financial reasons and get away with it, and Mr X wouldn't have been afraid to give Garrison his real name for fear that his former friends and colleagues would do away with him because he was somewhat more truthful than they, and things like military intelligence and the CIA might not be necessary in the first place, and Hillary wouldn't have to worry about telling the truth about Trump's supporters right out loud, and there wouldn't be nearly as many of Trump's supporters to begin with. They're not suckers for the truth, they're either out-and-out liars, or they can't HANDLE the truth.

If people were suckers for the truth, Hillary wouldn't have taken a hit in the West Virginia primary for telling the truth: that the West Virginia coal-mining industry is going away and not coming back. That's the truth, and Hillary said it, and Bernie didn't, and Bernie won West Virginia by a wide margin. Bernie, the guy who tells it like it is and says that America's #1 challenge is global warming. Unless there are votes to be won and he's speaking to former coal miners who want to be coal miners again.

People aren't suckers for the truth. Not most of them. They're just suckers. THAT'S the truth. And if I were on Hillary's campaign staff, I wouldn't know how to advise her about how to spin her truthful, undiplomatic characterization of Trump's supporters. My strong gut feeling would be to tell her something like, "You said the truth! Go with the truth! Double down!"

But of course, political campaigns are not won by gut feelings, nor by the truth. They're won by cleverness, cold dispassionate analysis, slander and bullshit. The truth is interesting to a few historians, journalists and autistic bloggers whose voices are drowned out by those of hacks, half-wits, tools and goons.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Apple, Ireland, Taxes And The Continued Life Of The Myth Of Steve Jobs

Apple is outraged that some people in Ireland (and some lawmakers in the European Union) think that Apple should pay taxes in Ireland. (Why, the nerve of those peasants!)

The headline of a story about Aplle's Irish tax situation in the Guardian says

Apple should pay its EU tax bill and start focusing on innovation rather than balance sheets --

Well, alright for the Guardian! Wait, there's more writing in the headline...

-- as the company did in the Steve Jobs era.

D'oh!

Okay. So the Guardian can see that Apple is an obscenely huge money-taking operation posing as a computer maker now, but not that it was the same sort of thing in the Jobs era. More than 30 years ago Apple went from the Wozniak-Jobs era to the Jobs era largely because Wozniak felt that Apple was too much about marketing and not enough about innovation and having actual good stuff to market. Not that Wozniak felt strongly enough about that to keep him from becoming a billionaire, or that there was ever a time when Apple was either technologically superior or a better deal than its competition. They've been selling hot air the whole time, including the 14 Jobs-Wozniak years. Apple wasn't good with Woz, it just got more shamelessly evil and rapacious without him.

Apple didn't get worse technologically or more egregiously-overpriced without Jobs because that wasn't possible. If the Guardian headline is any indication, then maybe, without Jobs, Apple is losing its ability to sell nonsense. Which would be good. But if the myth of Jobs, Technological Genius And Friend To Humanity, doesn't crumble along with that ability, then it's only part-good.

The US And Mexico

This was the map in 1794:


In 1794, Mexico included the territory of what would be the Louisiana Purchase. This Louisiana Territory had belonged to France until 1762, when, doing badly in the Seven Years' War, France signed it over to Spain. Then in 1800, Napoleon, doing quite well militarily, induced the King of Spain to cede it back to France, then sold it to Jefferson in 1803. Then for 45 more years the US kept taking more territory from Mexico. Apparently many people aren't nearly as linguistically sensitive as I am, so that place-names from Texas to California to Colorado, From San Antonio to Albuquerque to Los Angeles, don't constantly scream to them that they were places in Mexico before they became places in the US.

After we stopped taking land from them, we started taking water: the appropriately-named All-American Canal, described as the largest canal in the world, diverts water from the Colorado River just north of the Mexico border, and leads it into Imperial County, California, widely touted as the largest irrigated area in the world, where many of the crops, I would imagine, are harvested by undocumented workers from Mexico, although it's hard to get exact statistics for such things.

All of that water diverted by the All-American Canal into Imperial County has left less in the Colorado River, which continues south into Mexico. Most maps still show the river as continuing south of the US-Mexico border for about 50 miles and emptying into the Gulf of California, but the truth is that now, for at least part of the year, the Colorado goes completely dry before it reaches the Gulf. Boats stranded where there used to be a Colorado River in Mexico silently testify about how things have changed:


Of course, it's not solely the All-American Canal, or even mostly the canal, which is responsible for this transformation of a region of Mexico: upstream, up north, quite a few dams take a lot of water out of the river before it gets to the canal, the biggest of which is the Hoover Dam, which keeps a lot of lawns green in and around Las Vegas.

Then there's the war on drugs and the wars against Mexican drug cartels, and the constant depiction of those cartels, in US media and entertainment, as being unimaginably ruthless and bloodthirsty. Prohibition of alcohol, as we learned in the 1920's, benefited above all gangsters, and corrupt politicians who co-operated with those gangsters, and got a lot of people killed. And of course, the prohibition of marijuana and cocaine and meth is doing exactly the same thing.

Diversion of water and the drug wars. And how many more major examples could be named? I came up with these in 10 minutes.

Fewer people would want to escape from Mexico if the US screwed Mexico over less.