Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dream Log: Wondrous Light

Last night I had one of those dreams where I think I've come across a huge breakthrough, and then when I wake up -- well, then it was just a dream. I think I know what caused me to dream on the theme of light: my next-door neighbor had some lights on all night. Apparently someone forgot to turn them off. Just a little bit of that light got through my window shade. Not enough to keep me awake, but enough to get into my dream.

I dreamed that -- well, what? That something wonderful had happened with light. It was going to completely change my economic situation for the better, and maybe the economics of the whole world too.

So maybe it is more than just a dream, because: solar power.

But in the dream the details were extremely vague. Something somewhere to do with light had caused some sort of huge scientific and/or technical breakthrough, and I was involved with all of it somehow (even though in waking life I have no great expertise in any science or technology directly related to light) and there were reproductions of spectrums on pieces of paper, and various people were looking at these pieces of paper, and some were very skeptical, and others were saying, hmm, yeah, that's a huge breakthrough.

It wasn't clear what sort of breakthrough it was, but it seemed that I, and possibly others, was going to get rich from it. Even though I didn't know what I had done to lead to the breakthrough and couldn't even read the spectrums the way the other people were doing.

The spectrums were printed vertically on the pieces of paper, not left to right like every spectrum I've seen in waking life. The verticality didn't seem important in the dream. It wasn't as if the breakthrough had to do with turning the paper 90 degrees from the way such things are usually looked at.

In retrospect, it seems strange how much we were looking at paper and how little we were looking at computer screens or laboratory equipment or blackboards or whiteboards, and also how the paper contained only those printouts of spectrums, and not, for example, mathematical equations. And also how I walked from office to office to speak to each person face to face, with no phone calls or emails or texts.

While the breakthrough or discovery or technical innovation or whatever it was was being discussed by various people, I was walking around a quiet city downtown in the middle of the night, checking in with various experts who normally would be sleeping at this time of night, but the breakthrough was too important for them to be sleeping -- or, from the point of view of the skeptics, they had been woken up in the middle of the night for no good reason, which made them understandably grumpy, and I was sorry about that even though I disagreed with them about how important this was. I would go into an office or some other building where someone had come to discuss the pictures of the spectrums, and they would react however they reacted, positively or skeptically, and then I would move on to the next place. It was clear that by the early morning there would be some level of pandemonium in the city, and maybe sooner than that online, about the breakthrough.

There was a misunderstanding when I went to the wrong part of a building, a clothing-warehouse area, and a policeman thought I was a burglar. He handcuffed me to a rack of winter coats, but he didn't lock the cuffs right, and when he went away for a minute to do something I just took the cuffs off and walked away, continuing my consultations with the optics experts.

The sense of success was so powerful in the dream -- even though the details of just exactly what the success was, and just exactly how I was involved with it, were so vague -- that it took a while after I woke up to realize that it was just a dream, and that there weren't going to be any emails or voice mails related to it waiting for me.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Boehner Has Harsh Words For Cruz

In an interview published today on the website of the Stanford Daily, John Boehner was delightfully blunt about his opinion of Ted Cruz:

“Lucifer in the flesh. I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

In the interview, Boehner says that he and Donald Trump are friends, that they play golf together and that he will vote for Trump if Trump is the Republican nominee. But not for Cruz.

The story suggests that the interviewer, David Kennedy, a history professor emeritus at Stanford, may have tricked Boehner into being especially candid by pointing out that the interview was not being broadcast. But how could Boehner have thought that the words of his I quoted above would not be quoted by about a bazillion people, including just about every political broadcast journalist in the US and a lot outside the US?

The Stanford Daily story does not mention whether or not Boehner was drunk at the time of the interview.

Well, we've got a lot of prominent Republicans saying they will not vote for Trump if he's the Republican nominee; and some saying they won't vote for Cruz, period. You may say that there is always a certain amount of rough-and-tumble during Presidential campaigns, and that party members tend to swallow whatever personal animosities they may have and come together for the sake of the party by November, and that's true. But this Republican Presidential campaign is different. It's very hard to walk back statements like “Lucifer in the flesh. I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Is Cruz' Choice Of Fiorina As His Running Mate The Beginning Of His 3rd-Party Run?

Yesterday the Donald swept all 5 of the day's Republican primaries. Today Ted Cruz announced that Carly Fiorina is his running mate. Cruz is still steadfastly maintaining that the Republican nomination is undecided. But Trump is a lot closer to it than he was on Monday, and picking a running mate is something a Presidential candidate normally does after it's clear that he or she will be a party's nominee.

That's why I'm wondering if the Cruz' announcement about Fiorina is really, although not yet explicitly, the beginning of his 3rd-party run.

Am I really the only person wondering this? Surely not, although right now I'm not able to find anyone else saying it.

Cruz, of course, is not saying it. But by picking Fiorina now, when he loses the Republican nomination, a very important part of the groundwork for his 3rd-party campaign will already have been done.

Well, we'll see. You heard it here first, apparently: there will be a Cruz/Fiorina 3rd-party campaign. Am I a wizard? Am I a Democrat wallowing in wishful thinking, dreaming about what a huge landslide there could be with the Right wing vote split between the Donald and Ted?

We'll see.

How Many Of Bernie's Supporters Will Support Hillary?

Yes, I know that the news is full of Bernie supporters saying that Hillary is a Republican/a corporate stooge/a cannibal/whatever, but the question is: how many of Bernie's supporters are like the "Bernie or bust" nutbags in the news, and how many can see that Bernie and Hilllary aren't very far apart in their positions, which are way, way to the left of Cruz, let alone Donald? How many are the nuts, and how many have a clue? Well, I guess we'll find out.

I guess we'll find out too whether or not Bernie is a nut, and, if he's not, how much influence he has over those who love him but are irrationally anti-Hillary, however many of those there may turn out to be. It's about turnout now. It's over, Hillary will be nominated. It's been over for a while, but after yesterday's primaries -- Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware -- it has become obvious to a lot more people that it's over. Including Bernie? Some pundits think so. They're expecting a halt to Bernie's personal attacks against Hillary, and a return to him talking about issues, coaxing Hillary to the Left (Is there actually any more room to her Left for him to coax her before she's significantly to the Left of him?) and assuring everyone that he supports the Democratic candidate for President -- whoever that may be.

Will he clearly support Hillary -- as the far better choice than any and all Republicans, that is -- while remaining a candidate? And does that actually make sense at this point? It's not as if he's suddenly going to lose everyone's attention if he ends his campaign.

And will it actually matter that much whether, and to what extent, he supports Hillary? I guess we'll find out. Does he actually not grasp how important it is how many Democratic victories there are down ballet in November? I guess we'll find that out too.

Is Alternative Energy The Cause Of The Drop In Oil Prices?

Many people have made doom-and-gloom predictions about worldwide chaos caused by the end of Big Oil, because the world simply runs out of oil -- you've heard it: gasoline casting $40 a gallon etc -- but what if we're headed very soon for the end of Big Oil, not because the supply is drying up, but because the demand is disappearing?

Is demand for oil going to drop nearly to the point of disappearing? (It could still be used for lubrication and plastic if we no longer use it for fuel. Then again, consumption of plastic might drastically drop...)

It might seem as if it would be easy to find the answer to that -- and that the answer would be yes, since wind, solar and other non-suicidal ways of generating energy are growing fast, and hybrid and all-electric vehicles are replacing all-petrochemical ones not just on the roads, but in the cases of ships and trains as well -- but we are told by alleged experts that the reasons for the drop in oil prices are murky and complex.

Also, the most-asked question concerning the relationship between alternative and petrochemical energy -- most-often asked in the mainstream media, anyway -- seems to be, not something like: How soon will we be able to stop killing ourselves with oil use? but the somewhat shorter-term question: will lower oil prices drive alternative energy out of the market? Nevermind whether humanity will be gone in 30 years -- can I make a killing 6 months from now by shorting alternative?

I know that suggesting that the petrochemical industry is controlling and distorting the public discourse about energy trends makes me sound paranoid to some. But research predictions about such trends for yourself, see if I'm onto something when I suggest that there's an awful lot of bullshit out there. Predictions not fitting facts.

Dream Log: Big Honkin' Library, Long Hair On Me

Very often I dream about walking around on university campuses, often within buildings on those campuses which are unrealistically large, often getting lost in those huge buildings, walking past row after row after row of offices and laboratories and archives and lounges and so forth, unable to find an exit, with an ambivalent feeling: on the one hand, I feel very comfortable in such surroundings, and I'm very appreciative of the work which is done there, but on the other hand, I'm lost and I can't find an exit.

And on the 3rd hand, I don't belong there, and if I asked directions it might become clear that I didn't belong there, and that might be awkward. In real life, I haven't been a paid, official member of academia since 1992, and I'm not officially an academic in these dreams either, which, when I pause and consider it, is somewhat strange inasmuch as I was an actual academic once, and I quite frequently dream about having all sorts of jobs I've never had in real life.

In real life, I have browsed the stacks in many a university library. In many of those libraries, it was against the rules for me to be there. I know of one university library in which anyone can cone and browse, and one more where the general public can not only come in and look around, but also anyone with a library card from the city's public library can check out books from the university library as well.

Otherwise, as far as I know, if you're not a student or a member of the faculty or staff of the university, you're not supposed to be in their library. In some cases, this is effectively enforced by security checkpoints at all library entrances, where university ID's are scanned. Other libraries do not have such checkpoints, and although de jure only those officially associated with the university may enter, in practice, anyone who doesn't cause a disturbance is generally tolerated.

Last night's dream's unrealistically large academic building in which I got lost was the main library of an unspecified university. The lobby of the library was quite particularly unrealistically huge. In particular, the lobby's ceiling was unrealistically high, well over 50 feet high.

At the back of the lobby were huge staircases leading to the stacks and offices and special collections and archives and so forth, and all of these looked like their real-life counterparts in university libraries, except that, as often happens in my dreams, there were very, very many of them, and soon I was lost. Many of the doors of the offices etc which I passed were wooden with glass in their top halves, and after a while I noticed my reflection, and that my hair was very long. I had tied it up to some extent in one big braid, but some locks had come loose and were hanging as low as the middle of my back, while others stood out at odd angles. After a while I just gave up on trying to get my hair tied back up again, and shook it all loose, and it was very unruly and pointing it all sorts of directions. And in the dream I liked the way my hair looked and felt. (In real life my hair is very unruly except when it is very short, and at the moment, as it happens, it's less than a quarter-inch long. I've had a very great variety of hairstyles, from very short to very long, from very conventional to downright Cubist.)

That's pretty much the whole dream: being in a huge university library, finding the surroundings pleasant except that I was lost, and having very long hair. (And enjoying having my hair so long.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dream Log: Energetic Priest

I dreamed I was a Roman Catholic priest. A very liberal one, to put it mildly. I was openly flirting with a woman in front of a young priest, who was also very liberal about such things and not bothered by my behavior, and a superior of mine on the Church hierarchy, who was very much bothered by my behavior, and threatened to have me thrown out of the priesthood. I wasn't rattled: I didn't think he could have me thrown out, and I didn't much care if he did. I didn't believe in God in the dream any more than I do in waking life.

Then for a little while the young priest and I were cops as well as priests. The two of us very energetically chased some suspects through a wintry city neighborhood, running very fast, going up and down many exterior staircases on old wooden houses, climbing over tall fences. Then we were no longer cops, but we kept up with the running and climbing, for reasons which were unclear. If nothing else, it was fun and a really intense workout. I was 54 years old in the dream, just like in waking life, but in the dream I was in much better physical condition.

Then I and the young priest and a third man who was young and athletic went inside my modest apartment. The two of them were both very hungry, so I got two dishes I'd made out of my refrigerator: they were mostly potatoes, plus some odds and ends I'd had on hand. I was embarrassed, because I thought that both of the dishes, both improvised on my part, were rather disgusting. But the two of them ate with great gusto and seemed to enjoy the food very much.

It occurred to me how some people seem not to realize that one and the same sort of food can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how much a person exercises. These potato dishes could be quite fattening for sedentary people, but people like us, who'd been running and climbing very strenuously for long distances, could eat the very same thing, and the carbs would burn off very quickly, and the food wouldn't be fattening. I was reminded of a program I'd seen on the Food Network, hosted by Bobby Flay, in which two women were featured who ran a bakery for a living, and also ran marathons. On the program they prepared one of their favorite items, a huge chocolate-chip cookie with an enormous amount of calories. When the cookies were done they had a lot of their regular customers over to try them, including many other marathon runners. The women who ran the bakery, and the other marathoners, were all very lean and attractive-looking people. And they were all talking about what a great pre-race food this enormous cookie would be. And Bobby Flay seemed a bit confused, as if he didn't understand how this huge cookie full of fat and carbs and sugar and chocolate, which he would regard as a decadent indulgence, could actually be healthy food.

That was a real Food Network show which I saw in waking life, and then in the dream I remembered seeing it, as I watched my two young athletic friends chowing down on potatoes.

Then I woke up. Recently, in the past year or two, I'd been confused about whether I had occasionally done some fast running, or just dreamed about it so intensely that it seemed like real memories of running. When I woke up this morning all doubt was gone: all of that recent running has been in dreams. I mean, I've done SOME running in real life, recently, but it's been very different than in the dreams: in waking life, now and then in the past couple of years I've run for up to 50 or 100 yards at a time, and without necessarily turning blue every time, either. But in the dreams I've been going for miles, really fast. In these dreams I've been a better runner than I've ever been in real life.

But I'd like to run that well in real life. I used to be a very lean person who could chow down on big amounts of carbs without it fattening me. It'd be fun to be that lean and strong again. It felt good, decades ago.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Die Luege

Ich habe Dich ein einziges Mal angelogen.

Nein, vielleicht habe ich Dich einigemal angelogen, ich weiss es nicht mehr. Ich glaube nicht mehr, dass jede einzelne Luege gar so schlimm ist. Oft luegen Leute aus Guetigkeit oder Erbarmen. Wie auch immer, sie tun es oft. Eine wichtige Luege, eine Luege, die ich bereue, erzaehlte ich Dir, und auch diese sagte ich mehr als ein einziges Mal: mehrere Mal fragtest Du mich: "Was willst Du von mir?" und ich luegte: "Nichts." Vielleicht war das ganz offensichtig eine Luege, und Du fragtest deshalb widerholt. Ist es moeglich, dass Du widerholt fragtest, weil Du die Wahrheit ahntest, und sie hoeren wolltest? Die Wahrheit war, dass ich alles wollte, alles, was Du hattest, Leib und Seele und Geist und Kleider und Buecher und Kram. Und ich wollte Dir alles geben, was ich hatte. So dass es nicht mehr ein Deines und ein Meines, sonder nur noch ein Unseres gab. Und ich wollte es ganz verdient haben, dass Du mir alles gabst, indem ich Dich so gluecklich machen wuerde wie Du mich machtest. Ganz gluecklich, heisst das. Restlos. Und ich wollte zusammen mit Dir leben bis dass einer von uns starb und dem anderen das Herz zerbrach, weil wir immer noch verliebt waren.

Und ich war einfach zu feig, das alles Dir direkt zu sagen.

Ich nehme an, dass Du in mich verliebt warst wie ich in Dich, und dass Du mir eine einzige wichtige Luege sagtest, naemlich, dass Du es nicht warst. Ich bin nicht ganz sicher, aber ich nehme es an. Einige Zeichen davon gab es. Und vielleicht, wenn einer von uns unsere Luege korrigiert haette -- und die beiden Luegen waren ungefaehr diesselbe feige Luege: Du sagtest die Woerte "Ich libe Dich" nicht, ich sagte sie zwar, aber verweigerte, ehrlich auszusagen, was ich damit eigentlich meinte -- vielleicht dann haetten wir eine erfolgreiche Liebesgeschichte. Vielleicht haette es nur soviel gebraucht, um alle Hindernbisse beiseite zu schieben.

Oder vielleicht, wenn ich Dir sagte, dass ich alles wollte, waerst Du sofort und fuer immer stracks weggerannt. (Und vielleicht waere das auch das vernuenftigste gewesen Deinerseits.) Wie kann ich ganz sicher sein, was waere geschehen, wenn.

Wie kam Anderen unsere kleine kurze leidenschaftliche Geschichte vor?

Ja, ich nehme es Dir immer noch ein wenig uebel, dass Du nicht zugegeben hattest, dass es Liebe war. Aber nein, eigentlich tue es das nur zum Teil; zum anderen Teil frage ich mich, ob es alles fuer Dich nicht entfernt so leidenschaftlich und gluecklich war, als fuer mich. Vielleicht war ich einseitig in Dich verliebt, und Du einfach zu guetig, um mir blicken zu lassen, das fuer Dich das ganze halb so dramatisch war -- aber nein. Es gab Zeichen. Aber, wiederum, waren es vielleicht bloss Zeichen von etwas, was mir einmalig, Dir aber eher alltaeglich war? Du sagtest mir einmal, dass ich ein schoener Mann war, "sehr schoen, sogar," aber jeder staunte darueber -- staunte, will ich Dir sagen, was fuer eine schoene Frau Du warst. Auch heterosexualle Frauen staunten, sahen Dir nach mit offen haengenden Muendern and sagten "LOOK at that beauty!" und Aehnliches. So schoen warst Du. Kann sein, dass ich da eine kurze Zeitlang ganz ausser meinen Liga gespielt haben, wie die Leute es manchmal ziemlich grob ausdruecken. Ich dagegen sagen meistens, dass es diese Ligen gar nicht gibt. Habe ich recht? Oder liebe ich es bloss, ausser meinen Liga zu spielen?

Wie kamen wir als Paar anderen vor? Es scheint mir, dass wir uns nicht so gut gesteckt haben wie wir wollten, und dass mehr Leute von es wussten, als wir ahnten. Ich weiss nicht aber, wir schoen es fuer Dritten war. Einige schienen sich wirklich zu freuen fuer uns, andere aber gar nicht. Mein Lieblingsfilm ist Scorsese The Age of Innocence, nach Wharton's Roman. Ich glaube irgendwo gelesen zu haben, dass Edith Wharton den Newland und die Graefin, den angeblichen Held und die angebliche Heldin einer angeblichen Tragoedie, in Wirklichkeit fuer die zwei langweilsten Figuren des Romans hielt, weil sie unmoeglich eitel waeren. Aus lauter dummen Stolz und Eitelkeit vetanen sich sich das Glueck, das alle Anderen annahmen, sie haetten genossen.

Eitel? Wir zwei? Hahahaha, ja. Was immer auch sonst wir waren oder nicht waren, ein wenig eitel waren wir schon. Du hattest doch eine leise Ahnung davon, oder vielleicht viel mehr als das, wie schoen Du warst. Bist Du immer noch schoen zum Erstaunen, jetzt, noch 26 Jahren? Eitel? Wir? Ja. Einmal spazierten wir im Stadtzentrum, und hielten vor einer Spiegelwand, und umarmten uns, und ich sagte, "Stell Dir vor, was fuer grosse, schoene Kinder wir haben wuerden!"

Natuerlich liebe ich Dich immer noch. Ich traumte von Dir letzte Nacht, deshalb schreibe ich dies hier, weil ich nicht weiss wo Du bist oder einmal wie Du heisst und so nichts direkt zu Dir und fuer Dich allein schreiben kann. Es war wahr, wenn ich Dir sagte, dass ich nie im Leben sowas gefuehlt hatte. In den 26 Jahren seitdem habe ich es nur einmal noch gefuehlt, mit einer jungen Damen, mit der ich eine Geschichte hatte, dass noch kuerzer und wahnsinniger war, als unsere. Ich will noch viel mehr davon fuehlen. Mit Dir. Oder mit ihr. Oder mit sonst jemandem. Das Gefuehle von alles-haben, allles-geben, auf-Lebezeit-wollen. Ich hoffe, dass es Dir gut geht. Ich habe immer gefuerchtet, dass ich damals bei Dir etwas Schaden eigerichtet habe, ein wenig Unordnung in Deinem Leben gebracht zu einer ganz unguenstigen Zeit, und das habe ich immer sehr bereut. Gilt es Dir ueberhaupt als Entschuldigung, wenn ich sage, das ich, wie man sagt, wahnsinnig vor Liebe war?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Those 125,000 Voters In Brooklyn

If the Democratic Presidential nomination campaign were about the size and enthusiasm of crowds at rallies, then clearly, Bernie Sanders would be leading Hillary Clinton by an unsurmountable margin. But it's about votes, and there, Hillary is kicking Bernie's ass any way you slice it.

The Sanders campaign is yelling bloody murder about voters in Brooklyn having been disenfrachised in yesterday's New York Democratic primary. If this campaign were about candidate's campaigns and supporters yelling bloody murder, Sanders would have had the nomination locked up some time ago. But it's about votes. I care about voter disenfranchisment. So does Hillary and her campaign. Once again, though, Those Who Feel The Bern are screaming so loud that a lot of people don't hear Hillary and her people. My question, besides whether or not these 125,000 voters in Brooklyn were or were not unfairly prevented from voting, is, for whom would they have voted? Hillary Clinton won every county in and around NYC, most of them by quite lopsided margins. As the vote count stands now, without those 125,000 votes the Sanders campaign is complaining about, Hillary won Brooklyn County by 174,236 to 116,327. The Sanders campaign is raising the question of whether those missing 125,000 votes would have swung the county Bernie's way. The answer is: only if over 73% of them had been votes for Bernie.

My question is: would anywhere near 50% of them have been votes for Bernie? My suspicion is: no. My feeling is that they only would have made Hillary's victory in "Bernie's" Brooklyn and in the state of NY even more resounding.

If I'm right about that, then the Sanders campaign' reaction to these 125,000 seems to encapsulate their approach in a nutshell: factually mistaken, irrational, emotional, misrepresenting things which, if they were seen clearly, would actually point in Hillary's favor.

Dream Log: Bagman With Jeri Ryan

I dreamed that someone in NYC, somewhere in Manhattan, was paying me and another guy to take a satchel full of cash down a hill to a bank and give it to a bank employee. At first I didn't really understand why I and the other guy were being paid just to walk for a couple of minutes and hand something to someone. Then it occurred to me that there were tens of thousands of dollars in the satchel; and that if it was known a large bag of cash was taking this route to the bank, someone might try to steal it en route. Perhaps someone armed and dangerous, perhaps someone desperate.

I carried the bag. The other guy pestered me for a while to let him carry it it or at least look at the money, but I ignored him.

In the lobby of the bank there was great excitement because Jeri Ryan was there for some reason. When we walked in I didn't see her right away, but I saw a lot of men squaring their shoulders and jaws and trying to look taller and so forth.

The bank employee who was to receive the bag showed us to his desk, we made small talk for just a little while, and then he said, "I believe you have eighteen thousand dollars for me." I thought that the bag had forty-five thousand dollars in it. I excused myself, took a few steps away, called the people who had given me the bag and asked them how much was in it, they said eighteen thousand dollars, I came bank to the desk and apologized for the interruption and gave the man the bag. I also said that I'd feel better if he counted the money. He said that he was sure that it wasn't necessary, but I said I'd feel better if he did. So he opened up the bag.

It looked like it was all 20's, I said eighteen thousand would be 900 20's, he had a bill-counting machine on his desk, he fed the contents of the machine through it and it was exactly 900 bills.

Then there was a quiet commotion of murmers. I looked up and saw Jeri Ryan striding through the lobby, looking ultra-va-va-va-voom-glamourous, wearing a long close-fitting light-blue dress with a slit skirt, looked as if it might have been silk, and with her hair somewhat longer than she usually has it and parted on the side in a sort of neo-Veronica-Lake do, and somehow seeming to ignore every single man in the place.

I was given more bags of cash to carry here and there. Starting with the second bag I was sent alone, instead of having another guy coming with me as on the first delivery. I kept getting confused about the amount in each bag because all sorts of different figures were flying around in my mind, because I started to obsess about the amounts which had been in each bag, and about how many bills in various denominations would add up to the total amount in each bag, not to mention if a bag contained more than one denomination which of course would make it much more complicated, and so finally I gave up on trying to remember the amounts, and wrote each amount down as soon as I was told it, and crossed it out as soon as I handed it off. The more I thought about it the more I thought that I was earning my money because of the risk of attempted hold-ups. I wasn't particularly worried about being held up, because I'm a big and rather scary-looking guy and I don't worry much in general about being assaulted. I figure that there are many targets who look much easier than I. Then it occurred to me that I had never carried nearly this much money around before, and that that would make me a completely different sort of target, if potential thieves knew what I was doing for a living. So that it would behoove me to be a bit more on guard and aware of the people around me, looking out in case an assault was coming. But I still didn't feel afraid.

Monday, April 18, 2016

I Have This Strange Non-Talent --

-- I compose snatches of very bad music in my sleep. The closest I can remember to composing an entire very bad song in my sleep was when I dreamed about this aging metal band. They had huge handlebar moustaches and severe mullets. Some members of the band still wore black leather vests over bare torsos years after they should have stopped going shirtless. I can't recall the lyrics of the verses anymore, except that each verse was a rhyming couplet. Just one rhyming couplet. I haven't forgotten the chorus yet, but there's not that much to remember. Here's the whole chorus, set to a clanking, rumbling metal train that sounds as if could grind to a halt completely at any moment:

"Rollin'. Rollin'. Rollin'. Rollin'."

I'm pretty sure the verses all described people who were not rollin' down that road with the band, and were jealous. It was all very, very sad and unimpressive. Wait, I just remembered one of the verses!

"And you know that I love it/If they don't, they can shove it."

As I said -- very, very sad and unimpressive.

But recently I dreamed up a couple of bars' worth of a song, and although if I were objective I might see that it's as awful as anything I've composed while asleep, I can't be objective about it. I like it. The way that someone might take home the most pathetically-crippled dog or cat from the shelter, not to be noble, but because they really and truly fell in love with the poor thing. I keep singing it.

Here are the lyrics to my three-legged puppy of a dreamed few seconds' worth of music:

"Won't you help MEEEEEEEEEE/To unnerstan[...]"

That's right: not "understand," but "unnerstan." This music is too pathetic to have d's.

But very much unlike the tired clanking rumbling metal anthem about rollin' down that road and leaving the jealous haters behind,

"Won't you help MEEEEEEEEEE/To unnerstan[...]"

is about me. It's about my autism, and being baffled by the behavior of most people, and asking for help in tryin' to unnerstan everthing.

I don't really know how obvious it is to others that I'm "special." More obvious to some than to others, I guess. And some of those more perceptive ones have been very kind, and have done a lot to try to help meeeeeee to unnerstan. And I guess that those are the people that I'm talking to when I say things like "thnk yu verr mutch pleez, yur verr nice persun." Or: "Won't you help MEEEEEEEEEE/To unnerstan."

I haven't yet read an entire novel or story by David Foster Wallace, but recently I read a meme with a quote from him (I checked it out and it's really from him), in which, if I've understood him correctly, he says that perhaps being human means being

"unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and generally pathetic, [...] in some basic interior way forever infantile, some sort of not-quite-right-looking infant dragging itself anaclitically around the map, with big wet eyes and froggy-soft skin, huge skull, gooey drool"

And if Wallace is right about that -- assuming I'm right about what he's saying -- then it means that I'm not so different from the neurologically-typical as I sometimes think, because I'm most definitely -- all that, that Wallace said, there. Maybe the autism has to do more with expressing my essence in an unusual way, than with my essence being unusual. Maybe sometimes those verr nice persuns have not so much been taking pity on me, as responding to things they recognize within themselves. As one not-quite-right-looking infant to another.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

New Atheism: Because Thinking Is Hard

75 years ago, the most prominent exponents of atheism were Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. Today it's Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. Then, English-speaking atheists watched No Exit and read The Stranger, or at least pretended to have read it; today, New Atheists repeat Hitchens' would-be bonmot "religion poisons everything" and think of ways to insult religious believers with Facebook memes, and pay for billboards which are basically identical to those memes.

I suppose it's risky to actually try to understand people with whom one disagrees. What if one eventually understands so well that one no longer disagrees and becomes one of them? Why look at good things which some religious people do in the name of religion, when it could make things look more complicated than the memes showing clergy who are thieves and child molesters, and congregations who are blind, fearful, obedient, fleeced sheep? Yes, there are some clergy and some congregations who are like that. But others are somewhat different. Some New Atheists definitely do not want to talk about religious believers who do not fit their favorite stereotype, whether it's Christian congregations who actually use most of the collection-plate money for charity work instead of Super Fly lifestyles for the clergy; or Muslims who actually are peaceful and opposed to terrorism; or Muslims who do not advocate subservient roles for women, and actually don't torture, misfigure or kill women who are assertive; or whatever doesn't fit their pet stereotypes.

I agree with the New Atheists that belief in God or multiple gods is mistaken. I agree that this belief can have many negative effects. But I also think that New Atheism is having many negative effects. I don't think we're going to overcome religion by sneering at it. I don't think "We're all atheists -- I just believe in one less God than you do." is brilliant; on the contrary, everytime I see it on a sign someone's holding at a rally or on a billboard or a meme I just go: Uhhhhhhh, (That was a sound of disgust) that again? I really cannot imagine a Christian or a Muslim finding it clever, much less convincing. And of course Hindus and other polytheists are liable to feel both disgusted and slighted, treated as if they don't exist or don't matter.

How many minds are actually being changed by simpleminded garbage like that, or like holding up a sign next to someone holding up a sign with a religious message saying "FUCK THIS GUY", or a meme showing a collection plate and a caption comparing Christianity to a family of children paying their abusive father not to punish them, or the popular message "YOU KNOW IT'S NOT TRUE", etc? It all seems to me like a lot of people agreeing with each other and slapping each other on the back.

Eh. Maybe that's what they need, if they come from abusive fundamentalist backgrounds and have never before felt safe expressing disbelief, and never before met others who don't believe. Maybe they have a lot of hurt to get out of their systems, and need a place where they're allowed to vent.

See what I did there? I made an attempt to understand people whom I loathe for the constant stream of nonsense they produce. Because if we never understand them, how are we ever going to have any clue about how to interact with them in any way which is at all productive?

And, on the off-chance that someone is reading this who was one of those atheists who badly needed to know that there were others, who needed to escape from an abusive religious home; but now agrees with some of my critique of the New Atheist scene, which is beginning to annoy him or her, and wants to get a bit deeper -- welcome. There are a few others like us: atheists disenchanted with the New Atheists. I don't know whether we yet have a name, which we can use to distinguish ourselves from the New Atheists, to make it clear that we're not with them, that we realize "religion poisons everything" is a bit of an oversimplification, etc. I have suggested the name Steven Bollinger Can Haz Nobel Atheists.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I'm Imagining Ken Burns And Artie Shaw,

finishing up an interview for Burn's documentary TV series "Jazz," an interview which has gone on a bit into the evening, so Burns invites Shaw over to the Tavern on the Green for a drink, and although normally it would be just a short walk from Shaw's apartment, it's raining, so they take a limo instead.

There's a line of taxis dropping people off at the entrance to Tavern on the Green, so they get out and walk a few car lengths in the dark, and Artie almost trips and falls over a homeless person who's passed out in the rain from hunger and exhaustion -- who, if this was the mid-90's, could have been me! -- and they mistakenly assume the person is drunk or high and mumble a little bit about Why doesn't someone get a handle on that problem, and the doorman knows them and zips them right in past a line of people standing, and they sit at the bar sipping 30-year-old unblended Scotch and gradually getting very sad as they agree with each other how no-one understands what a horrible burden their success is.

Oh, I hope so much that some day really soon I am allowed to experience for myself the way that tremendous success is so much harder to bear than being homeless and hungry and so tired that you pass out on some pavement and are half-awakened by some rich guy almost stumbling over you in the dark on his way to someplace warm and snug where he will sip 30-year-old unblended Scotch and complain about how no-one understands that success is so much harder to bear than failure!

Artie Shaw Said Success Was Harder Than Failure

What a shame that so much success was wasted on someone so ignorant. Imagine how shockingly little someone would have to know about failure in order to say something that dumb.

Shaw was making a living as a musician at age 16 and sold tens of millions of records before age 30. That's how little he knew about failure.

He made that boneheaded remark on Ken Burns' documentary Jazz, speaking of someone insufficiently acquainted with failure. I've gotta think that many documentarians --- documentarians. Try to imagine, if you can, the gulf between how familiar the average documentarian is with failure, and how much Ken Freakin Burns could possibly know about it -- Ah say Ah say, I have to think that many documentarians would have kindly cut that remark out of the documentary, because they would have had quite a good idea how much it made Shaw sound like a horse's ass.

You don't know what I'm talking about? Good for you! And Shaw, and Burns!

As far as I can tell, Artie Shaw and Arnold Shaw weren't related. Artie was by far the better musician. On the other hand, Arnold said and wrote things which weren't ridiculous.

The Cluelessness Of Sanders And Trump (And Possibly Matthews, Unless He's Pretending)

I've already remarked in this blog that I like Hillary's answer when asked why she accepted around $1 million from Goldman Sachs for her 2016 campaign: "That's how much they offered."

But Bernie isn't just mad about that contribution, he seems to be furious whenever Hillary takes big contributions from anybody. Bernie has raised tens of millions of dollars himself, but he seems very proud of how much of it has come in contributions of $100 or less. I don't get that: he's proud of taking money from people how aren't as able to afford it? He's gotten 6-figure donations from public universities and unions, institutions which are struggling these days. Taking a campaign contribution from someone doesn't guarantee that you're going to help that someone. In fact, the only thing it guarantees is that right away, they're going to have less money.

Bernie doesn't belong to a socialist party, but he seems to be one of those socialists who hate wealth, as opposed to hating poverty. He's always going on about Wall Street. His plan to deal with banks attacks them according to how big they are -- as opposed to what they actually do (Hillary's approach, and Barney Franks', and the approach of sanity).

Attacking wealthy people in general is kind of risky for Bernie. He recently released his and his wife's 2014 tax returns, which showed that they made over $200,000. That's not the top 1%, but it's in the top 5%. And he's hanging with people like Spike Lee, who makes much more than enough to be in the top 1%.

I'm not mad at Spike for making lots of money. I'm not mad at Bernie because he and his wife made over $200,000 in 2014, even though I've never made $20,000 in one year. The reason I'm all worked up here is because I'm concerned that someone is running for President who's talking a lot of nonsense.

Bernie got furious when Hillary appeared at a high-ticket Hollywood fundraiser. He called it "obscene." This was an event attended by many of Spike's colleagues -- but that's not the problem for Bernie, the problem is that it cost so much to get in.

It's amazing that someone with such a shaky grasp of what a fundraiser is, has raised so much campaign funding.

I'm ashamed that I didn't get this until someone pointed it out to me yesterday, but that "obscene" Hollywood fundraiser wasn't just raising funds for Hillary. It was a Democratic Party fundraiser. A lot of that "obscene" money is going to down-ticket campaigns: campaigns for Senate and House and mayoral elections, city council elections, etc. That's one part of what was pointed out to me yesterday, the rest of it, the kicker, is this:

Bernie has been asked whether he will campaign for other Democrats, in Senate and House races and so forth, if he's not chosen as the Democratic nominee for President -- and he hasn't said yes. He hasn't definitively said no, but his reaction is a bit cooler than luckwarm. He shrugs and looks like he's smelled a bad smell.

And the kicker of the kicker is this: those superdelegates, who Bernie says should come over from Hillary to him? Those are the very same Senators, Congressmen, mayors, etc, for whom he shows so very little inclination to campaign. The same ones for whom Hillary has been campaigning, along with campaigning for herself.

Gee, why would they, as superdelegates, support Hillary, when all she does for them is raise campaign money and stump for them (while St Bernard treats them the way that someone who hates stinky cheese treats stinky cheese)? It's almost as if they're all in some group together -- a political party, or something.

And so I must apologize for having said that Bernie is a Democrat who calls himself a socialist. Democrats realize that they have to work together as a party. Bernie obviously doesn't get that. (Socialists get that too, that's why there are socialist parties. I don't know what to call Bernie at this point.)

Clearly, Bernie Sanders' most egregious irrationalities pale in comparison to the irrationalities of Donald Trump. Trump has too many for me to deal with all singly, so I'm just going to focus on his claim that he deserves the Republican nomination whether he gets a majority of the Republican delegates before the convention or not.

Again, just as with the Democrats, it's as if the Republicans were some sort of organized group, who had agreed to do certain things in certain ways.

It really bothers me that such a seasoned political reporter as Chris Matthews is 100% with Trump here, and says that it would be loathesome and underhanded and undemocratic and "stealing" and what have you if someone other than Trump were to get the GOP nomimation.

Chris, you chump. I know that many other reporters agree with you on this, but you especially bother me here, because you're sort of a leader among political reporters, and you've been in and around politics for a very long time. And still. I'm going to have to explain things to you as if you were 5 years old:

For one thing, there is nothing unusual about elections in which no one wins until he or she gets a majority of the votes. We have many such elections here in the US, for mayor of certain cities and whatnot. If there are more than 2 candidates and no-one gets over 50% the first time, they vote again, and they keep on voting until someone has a majority. Those second elections (and third and however many it takes until someone has 50%) are called run-off elections. And the conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties have always done it that way, re-voting and re-voting until someone has a majority. So stop acting as if any of this were new to you, please.

For another thing which really ought to be clear as can be to you, the real choice of the majority of the people who have voted in the Republican primaries may well be: anybody except Trump. If over 50% of those who've voted in Republican primaries would rather see anyone except Trump be nominated, then you, or anyone insisting that the nomination belongs to Trump, are the one being antidemocratic.

And for a third thing, how about an "Attaboy" for people trying to stop the campaign of an out-and-out fascist? "Fascist," that's your description of Trump, Chris. You've called Trump a fascist, and you're right, and anti-fascists, even ones who are right of center like the Republican mainstream, deserve your support.

Now, if your grasp of arithmetic is a bit above average, then you'll probably agree with me, Mr Matthews, that neither Trump nor anyone else vying for the GOP Presidential election has a snowball's chance in Hell of being elected POTUS, and that the better Trump does, the greater the chaos in the GOP and the more split the vote on the Right will be, and consequently, the bigger the Democratic landslide will be, even with no help from Bernie. If that's what you're thinking, as a good solid Democrat, than have the stature, the class, to say so, instead of continuing with this nonsense of calling resistance to Trump antidemocratic and dishonest. It's as if you were saying that the electoral votes didn't count in the 2000 Presidential election, because Gore got a bigger popular vote than Bush. You knew that it was all about the electoral college, and that if the Republicans stole something it was Florida's electoral votes, and that the overall popular vote, although poignant, was irrelevant to the overall result. And you know now, in the case of the Republican nomination, that it's all about a majority of the delegates. Please, please, stop acting as if you don't know that.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Debate

"In what could have been the final Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old socialist insurgent, positioned himself as the future of the Democratic Party, while Hillary Clinton steamrolled her rival with a steady stream of facts and pragmatism."

Again with the facts! It's like Al Gore all over again, no wonder nobody can stand her.

But wait, if no one can stand her, why has she gotten more primary votes than St Bernard?

Also: "socialist insurgent" my ass. Unless "socialist insurgent" means "someone who likes to pose as a radical but is well to the Right of the Left edge of the Democratic Party, and constantly talks about change without ever implementing any laws to enact it," then Bernie, and a lot of his most fervent fans are socialist insurgents here in Amurrka, where the only functioning socialist party is the Democratic Party. (You know: the party Bernie gets furious at Hillary because she raises funds for it, and at the same time he expects a lot of its superdelegates to switch over to him. Wow.)

I can't wait for Hillary to squash him on Tuesday. Clinton and Sanders aren't the only ones being made a bit cranky by all of this.

Jesus' Stand On Homosexuality

A popular talking point among gay-friendly Christians arguing that traditional Christian homophobia is un-Christian -- if, that is, they are reality-based enough to admit that traditionally, Christianity has been homophobic -- is:

"Jesus never said a word about homosexuality."

Maybe not. But if he didn't, living and teaching as he did (assuming he existed, which I don't) in a cultural tradition which was decidedly homophobic, the logical conclusion would be that he went along with this homophobic tendency.

Even more logical would be for Christians to decide for themselves that homosexuality is okay, no matter what Jesus said or would have said about it. But of course, insisting that it doesn't matter what Jesus would do is entirely too logical for Christians.

Gay-friendly Christians ARE making up their own minds about homosexuality -- so far, so good. But they still have this completely irrational need to believe that they have Jesus' approval and that they are following Jesus' example. Nevermind that there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus made any pronouncements which differed with the culture he came from on the subject of homosexuality.

But of course, theology and logic have been oil and water for a least a couple thousand years now. Evidence schmevidence, if there's no evidence we'll make up whatever we need. Of course, it's possible that Jesus was gay-friendly, and that this was edited out of the Gospels by those who may also have edited away that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, or in a gay relationship with one of his male disciples, or that he was married to Mary Magdalene and in a gay relationship with one of his male disciples. There are a few words' worth of evidence that Mary Magdalene's role in the group around Jesus may have been minimized in the New Testament. There's less evidence that Jesus was gay-friendly, and/or gay.

The thing is that there is so very little evidence about Jesus, period, which means that there has always been a great deal of room in which the imaginations of Christians could roam. It's possible that Jesus was gay-friendly, or homophobic, married or single, or that he never existed. It's certain that Christians have made whole libraries' worth of different versions of Jesus to suit what various ones of them have wanted to believe about him, out of the slender volume of dubious, self-contradicting evidence.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Birdcage: A Movie Review

That's right, the 20-year-old movie with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. I'm reviewing it. Cable keeps showing a movie over and over, chances are I might eventually have something to say about that movie. Got a problem with that? No? Good!

Williams and Lane play a couple who own a theatre in South Beach, Miami that presents drag shows. Albert Goldman (Lane) stars in the shows, his spouse Armand Goldman (Williams) directs the shows and writes songs for them. Dan Futterman plays their son Val, who arrives from college and informs them that he is getting married, and that the parents, Senator and Mrs Keeley, (Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest) of his finace Barbara (Calista Flockhart) will be visiting soon, and that they are conservative, and Val wants Albert and Armand to pretend to be a conventional family. This will involve Val's biological mother Katherine (Christine Baranski) pretending to live with Armand, his biological father, and the very very obviously gay Albert pretending to be an uncle, or disappearing, for the duration of the visit, and supposedly hilarity will ensue.

The good news is that Williams and Lane are very good as the couple coping with this painful request. Most of the movie is them getting for the Keeley's visit, and they create characters that we care about: a middle-aged couple dealing with a painful situation. And when it's Albert and Armand being with each other -- and that's a large portion of the movie -- the dialogue is wonderful, and what Williams and Lane do with it is wonderful. They seem like a couple who are in love, and have been in love for decades. What could be more beautiful than that?

The bad news, very bad for the movie, is that the situation around which everything revolves, around which the hilarity is supposed to ensue, is not plausible. It's not believable, not even close to believable, that Albert and Armand's son Val would consider for a moment asking them to enter a closet. There are an out, out, fabulously out couple in a very, very out neighborhood, and Val clearly is intelligent and sensitive and loves them very much. The movie doesn't come up with anything remotely resembling a plausible reason why Val would ask Armand to be straight and married to Katharine, and Albert to pretend either not to exist or to be a straight uncle. It shows Albert and Armand reacting with plausible horror to the request, it shows the facade plausibly (but unfortunately not hilariously) breaking down before the soon-to-be-in-laws finish their first meal together, and after the truth comes out it shows Val plausibly being very proud of who his family really are. If only it had come up with something plausible to drive the whole plot to begin with.

Flockhart, Val's fiancee, has very little to do in the movie except to react in a very wide-eyed manner to this and that. Hackman and Wiest, the conservative in-laws, are poorly-drawn cartoons of the American right wing. What I mean is that they are not even poorly-drawn characters. As good as Hackman and Wiest are, their parts aren't written well enough to make them seem like real human beings. They're like characters in an embarrassingly bad high-school play which you had to see because a relative had a hand in it. They can't come close to making us care about Senator and Mrs Keeley one way or another, as sympathetic characters, or monsters, or anything else except simple-minded plot devices. Just like Val's unconvincing request for Albert and Armand to hide their whole lives.

How did Val expect the facade to last for however long he and Barbara were going to be married? Was Albert going to have to disappear and Katharine arrive to play Mom every time the Keeley's visited -- or telephoned? Or when the Goldmans made a Christmas card? Sorry, Elaine May -- F- on your screenplay. Or an A for parts of it and an Incomplete for the rest. Mike Nichols (he directed this half-good, half-disastrous movie), I can only assume that long-standing respect and love for the screenwriter blinded you to the actual state of the spine of the plot of this tale. And assuming that respect and love were to blame, I can forgive you.

Parts of this movie are very good indeed. It's not just that Williams and Lane are good in their roles. The entire presentation of their lives -- their South Beach neighborhood, their theatre, the rehearsals for their shows, their very, very gay housekeeper Agador (Hank Azaria, who also, of course, tries and fails to be convincingly heterosexual when the Senator and his Missus come for dinner), their big, beautiful, flamboyant, proudly gay house, which has to be put into heterosexual drag for the visit just like Armand and Albert and Agador -- all of that is really beautiful. It's the only reason to see the movie. And it's a shame that all of that couldn't have been used in a movie whose plot made sense.

The New Atheist Approach To Anthropology

This (an actual quote from a real-life person) is what passes for a theory of the origin of religion in the New Atheist echo chamber this month:

"that fine line, or moment (period maybe) in history where we went from hunter-gatherers to settled civilized people, seems to me that certain people took advantage by creating stories etc to put themselves in positions of power. that's the answer, these people cut themselves off from what went before, they invented something and now they won't let go"

Oh. Okay. So now we know. (Good thing YOU didn't invent anything.)

Religions Of The World

Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places, but it seems hard to find really detailed overviews of the religions of the world. This world map from Wikipedia --

-- is above average, but still leaves something to be desired. Here's a link to the Web location of the map, in case you want a slightly larger view.

So. The religions shown on the map are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Chinese religion, Korean religions, Shinto, Folk religions and No religion.

"Folk religions" is a somewhat condescending term. It amounts to "etc." That's one problem. A few decades ago in many Western surveys this problem would have been worse, with "Chinese religion," "Korean religions" and Shinto more likely to have been included in the miscellaneous "folk religions."

Another big problem with this map is that there are no "folk religions" shown in all of Africa and all of South America. And that's inaccurate.

The map is also missing some religions somewhat more familiar to the West, and therefore typically somewhat less condescendingly-discussed by Westerners, than the world's various "folk religions" : Sikhism, Bahá'í, Jainism and Zoroastrianism, to name a few of which I am not ignorant. Zoroastrianism has shrunk to 200,000 adherents worldwide or less, making it somewhat hard to show it on a world map. Its absence is somewhat more striking on those videos of world maps where patches of color grow and shrink to show the growth and decline of religions: Zoroastrianism was the state religion of Iran for over 1000 years before being surpassed by Islam.

And what are those videos supposed to do about ancient Rome? Describing it as "pagan" is, I suppose, more accurate than simply leaving the area blank and thereby implying that there was no religion there at all until the spread of Christianity. But "paganism" is often used, like "folk religions," as a sort of condescending "etc" by people who don't know what was going on and don't care. What was going in pre-Christian Rome was a great variety of religions existing side by side. The official Roman position was to respect all religions. A Roman could belong to as many religions as he or she liked. The Romans expected in return that all religions would respect each other, and this was a sort of built-in conflict with montheistic religions.

But it's sort of hard to show a region with hundreds of different religions on a world map. (And the number of religions practiced in the city of Rome alone may have cracked 1000.) My purpose with this post is not to criticize the makers of maps of world religions but to show how difficult, and ultimately impossible, their task is. Especially in times and places such as ancient Rome, and increasingly again in our time, in which the emphasis is less on imposing one religion and more on tolerating all religions, making for cultural phenomena whose complexity maps are not suited to show.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Tout Comprendre C’est Tout Pardonner"

That's not a quote from the Buddha, and it's not from Tolstoy either. I don't know whether it's originally French or if it came from another language. (Note to self: screenplay for geeky sci-fi movie: IT CAME FROM ANOTHER LANGUAGE!)

In English it means: "To understand everything is to forgive everything."

As regular readers of this blog know, I resist believing uncritically in cliches, including the cliche: "Cliches are cliches because they're true." Instead, I think that cliches are cliches because they sound good. But this one, "tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner," this one strikes me as somewhat deep. I'm not able easily to dismiss it.

Over and over, I have asked myself, how does anything ever get done? That's when I'm waiting in a line, or in traffic, for the people ahead of me to get their shit together and get out of my way. But recently I had an insight: I'm only out there in those lines or in that traffic very seldom, and I spend a lot of time getting ready for those occasions. Typical adults are in those situations all the time. If I had a more typical life and was constantly interacting with others, I might be unusually slow during the several days it took me to have a complete mental breakdown.

I understood something, and since then I tend to be more forgiving.

So anyway, today a discussion broke out about the snake in the Garden of Eden, and as usual I'm greatly annoyed with almost everything everyone is saying: some atheists who seem very angry at God, and ask, "Why would God...?" That seems to me to be the wrong question. God didn't... anything, since He's imaginary. Yes, there are contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible. It was written by people who believed that the God they worshiped was all-powerful and loving, and yet they still suffered, and this was what they came up with to try to figure it out.

Then there are the people who insist that Genesis was never taken literally until the 19th century. This one always makes me head explode with rage, familiar as I am with the abundant evidence of all the billions of people who took the Bible literally from the time it was written until now.

So, what is it which I have to understand in order to be able to take part in these conversations in a form other than my usual: No, you're wrong, and you're wrong too, and so are you, and you, and you... ?

Good question. That approach does not make me universally beloved.

Maybe I need to understand all of the reasons people take part in these conversations other than making the kind of sense they would be expected to make in a good and sound course in archaeology?

Or maybe I need to throw "tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner" onto my scrap heap of rejected cliches. It doesn't seem to mesh at all with another bonmot, one which I think I like more: #5 from the chapter "Sprüche und Pfeile" in Nietzsche's book Götzen-Dämmerung: "Ich will, ein für allemal, vieles nicht wissen. – Die Weisheit zieht auch der Erkenntnis Grenzen." ("Once and for all, there is much that I don't want to know. Wisdom puts limits even on knowledge.")

Yeah, I think I should go with Nietzsche in this case. "Understanding everything" -- what does that even mean, "understanding everything"? It's a nonsense concept. As Steven Wright said: "You can't have everything -- where would you put it?" And I'm afraid that understanding everything is just as impractical as having everything.

Instead of striving to understand the people in these discussion about God and Genesis, these discussions which aggravate me so -- how about if I simply stop trying to understand all of them and all of their points of view? Wow: just thinking for half a minute about stopping, and I'm so relaxed. I think I'm onto something here. If I just give up on this, it may not make everybody love me, but it very well might make a few people dislike me less, and that's certainly a palpable achievement.

So. Just let those arguments go. And instead... keep looking for more interesting, less enraging discussions.

Dream Log: Bad Feelings In Venice

I dreamed I was in a small room in a rather scuzzy apartment in Venice, Italy. I've never been to Venice. I didn't see anything of Venice in the first part of the dream except for this small apartment. The windows were open but it was pitch black outside, and though there were a few bright streetlights outside, from inside the apartment they didn't illuminate anything, except the outside of the building we were in, if you leaned out the window. We were several stories up and there were wrought-iron terraces outside below the windows. You could climb from terrace to terrace, from one apartment or story to another, but that was a little bit risky.

The room was a mess, with dirty laundry all over the floor and the furniture. A lot of the dirty laundry was men's briefs which looked as if they had once been white, but gradually turned grey from insufficient washing. The apartment seemed to belong to someone who was and wasn't Don Cheadle. People kept coming and going but it seemed to be his apartment. He was and wasn't Cheadle, who in real life is thin and a bit on the short side, and black, and often seems quite fastidious about his appearance. In the dream he was white, several inches over 6 feet tall and very muscular, with unruly black hair and a dark 5 o'clock shadow, and a stain on the chest of his no-longer-entirely-white T-shirt. He seemed to be a slob, especially if this was his apartment, and his appearance matched that of the room.

He and I and the other people in the room all were wearing jeans and T-shirts and sneakers. Some people also wore jackets made of blue denim or black leather, but I was uncomfortably warm in my T-shirt, and it surprised me that anyone would keep a jacket on in that place. Gradually I began to notice that most of the people coming into and going from the room were rather unkempt, and I began to wonder whether most of these people might have something against me. At the very least, I started to feel that I was standing out from the crowd just a bit simply because all of my clothes were clean, and I hadn't been wearing any of them for more than 12 hours.

Someone who both was and wasn't Kristen Bell was in the room briefly at the beginning of the dream. Irl Ms Bell is petite and blonde, but in the dream she was medium-height, brunette and pleasantly curvy, and although casually dressed like everyone else, not a slob.

Most of the dream consisted of Non-Cheadle and I struggling over a phone in the room, a phone attached by a cord to a wall outlet. The receiver was about the size of a hardcover book and contained a digital display which would have seemed pretty fancy in the 1990's. I wanted to have a long, careful look at the dozen or so lines of data on that display. Non-Cheadle wasn't using the phone, but he kept taking it away from me. Our behavior over the phone was getting rougher, including more and more shoving and elbowing.

Non-Cheadle said that he would let me look over the phone for as long as I wanted, after he got a call he was expecting. But when he said that, he had a malicious grin on his face, which made me think that he was keeping the phone away from me for no other reason than that I wanted to see it. I didn't want to believe this. I wanted to give non-Cheadle the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, the reason I wanted to see it was vague in my mind. I was confused and unclear about my own motivations. I thought maybe I just wanted to pick a fight with non-Cheadle, and was using the phone as an excuse to do so. I wasn't sure whether the animosity between us had something to do with non-Bell.

Finally the phone rang, non-Cheadle spoke on it briefly, muffling his mouth with his hands so I couldn't make out what he was saying, and after a short while he hung up and tossed the phone to me, but he had erased all of the data from the display, and he laughed at me. I lunged at him and wrestled him to the ground, but several people managed to pull us apart after a while. I didn't care anymore about what data had been on the phone, or why the two of us were fighting, I just wanted to attack him, if not physically then verbally or some other way. (Irl it's been almost 40 years since I've been in a fight.) He had some blood trickling out of a corner of his mouth, and he looked as if he felt the same way about me.

I decided that this conflict was doing no-one any good. I went out the window and climbed down from terrace to terrace. As soon as I was outside the air was much fresher, and I started to let the anger go, and I felt much better. I reminded myself that I was in Venice for the very first time, and I felt that I ought to be able to just leave that dingy apartment behind and find something much more pleasant out in the city, some people with whom I would enjoy passing the time. It was very dark outside. When I got to street level I could just barely see that the street was roughly paved with cobblestones. Then I woke up.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I Nietzsche To Stop With These Im-Popper Puns

Hegels and guys, I Nietzsche to stop with these im-Popper puns. I Kant stand it. It's simply not in Descartes. Heidegger! Degger agrees with me: Husserl unravel such frivolous wordplay? You Sartre be ashamed of yourselves! This Shaw gives you bad Marx! Adorno what I'm gonna do with you guys! Horkeimer can't get you to stop it?! Who Weber started this is gonna be sorry! I'll Pindar blame where it belongs and Russell up the punishment which is Owen. This Mill not stand! I'll Machiavelli memorable example of you! You'll Rousseau what you did every time you Pascal Thomas! No More! Locke it up! With Hume do you think you're dealing?! You mustn't Berkeley up the wrong tree and Plato my strengths! Don't Fichte mize me! You Diderot, ro thing! Cicero guy to mess with! Loyola fans are in my corner! Occam you won't stop?!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Aus Baedekers Rheinlande, 31e Auflage, 1909

Aus der Einleiting, Teil !V, "Bemerkungen für Radfahrer."

"Im Radfahr- und Automobilverkehr sind besonders beliebt die Straßen am linken Rheinufer zwischen Bonn und Bingen, der Rheingau und das Moseltal, ferner die Straße von Frankfurt bis Heidelberg, das Neckartal und die Straßen am westlichen Abhang des Schwarzwalds, sowie die Straßen an der Haardt und an den Vogesen entlang. Im Schwarzwald bietet sich von hochgelegenen Eisenbahnstationen Gelegenheit zu lohnenden Radfahrten talwärts. Gefährliche Stellen sind in den S. XVIII gen. Radfahrerkarten meist kenntlich gemacht. Unbedingt erforderlich ist eine starke Bremse.

In vielen Städten und vereinzelt selbst in Dörfern sind steile, enge oder verkehrreiche Straßen für Radfahrer gesperrt, auch wohl öffentliche Anlagen, in denen man bisweilen das Rad nicht einmal führen darf. Den Behörden gegenüber hat man sich auf Verlangen durch seine Radfahrerkarte auszuweisen."

Brauche ich ueberhapt zu erwaehnen, dass dieser Baedeker von 1909 a Ding iss? 67 Karten, 62 Stadtplaene und Grundrisse. Aber selbst wenn es keine Karten und Plaene hatte -- ich denke, man kriegt etwas von sowas was man nicht von sonstigen Buechern kriegt. Weil es speziell fuer 1909 gemacht worden ist, sagt es uns vieles was wir sonst haetten schwerlich wissen koennen. Wie zB dass man damals als Radfahrer einen Radfahrerausweis haben musste und dass einem viele Wege gesperrt wurden.

Waren Fahraeder in 1909 noch so selten, dass die den Massen Misstrauen und Angst einfloessten? ("Was wird aus einer schoenen kleinen Stadt, wenn die Horden von Kommunisten auf ihren Fahrraedern ganz unhindert hereinstroemen duerfen?!")

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I'm Weird

There seems to be very little doubt about it: I'm odd. There doesn't seem to be much I can do about it. You want an example? When I drive, I don't just sing along to the music I play on the car stereo. I sing and dance. In the driver's seat. You want another example? I talk baby-talk to some of my pets who died years ago. I picture one of my former cats as an angel, with a white robe and a halo, standing on her back feet, holding a tiny little harp in her front paws.

Then again: who isn't odd? Maybe the answer to that one is: some of the people you doubt know very well yet, and if you got to know them better you'd see that they're weird too.

Did you watch that sitcom, "3rd Rock From the Sun" ? It ran from 1996-2001 on NBC, it starred John Lithgow and Jane Curtain, they were the biggest stars in the cast then. I guess the biggest star now who was in the cast is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt played a little kid and then a teenager on the show, it's still a little weird to me that he's all growed up now.

I think I got the central joke of the show: it featured a group of aliens from far away outer space posing as a family of humans, and constantly getting into embarrassing situations because they're completely unfamiliar with out planet. The central joke of the show is that they're never exposed as aliens, and are completely convincing as human beings, precisely because they are so awkward and clueless in their interactions with humans. Their weirdness makes them the same as the rest of us.

Just now it occurred to me that the names of the 3 aliens who are impersonating human males, Tom, Dick and Harry, underscore the joke about how typically human these aliens are: "any Tom, Dick and Harry" is an expression which means "any 3 guys taken at random."

Some of the most convincingly realistic moments on the show are when real humans are show behaving even more weirdly than than aliens: for example, when Bronson Pinchot plays the visiting brother of Jane Curtain's character, and they behave according the rules of the private world which human siblings often inhabit.

So, I think the central joke of the show is that, although it is centered around a group of aliens, it is really about humans, and about how our veneer of -- what's the term for "un-weirdness" ? maybe something like "grace and aplomb" -- isn't very deep. And so: it's okay. So you're weird. Welcome to the human race.

Notice how people don't say "Welcome to the human race" to you in response to your handling some situation with remarkable grace and aplomb?

The Answer Is: Because They Believe God Is Omnipotent

I've been watching some discussions between Christians and atheists -- not participating in them so much -- which follow the pattern: atheist asks: How can Christians believe X, followed by fruitless discussion. Followed, incredibly, by many more discussion which are exactly the same, including the exact same X.

One popular X lately is: How can God be 3 different people?

The answer seems clear to me: if God is omnipotent, he can be as many different people as he wants to be.

I used to believe that God existed and that he was omnipotent. I don't believe anymore that God exists, but it seems to me that if you believe He does and He's omnipotent, that pretty much explains any other questions anyone might have have about Him. Certainly including: How can He be 3 different people. Omnipotent means God can do anything. He can be 5 different people if he wants to, or 1000. Or 2/3 of one person. He could change from one of those numbers to another and back again much more quickly than you could blink an eye. In the same amount of time he could destroy the entire universe, make another one exactly like this one is right now after having developed for billions of years, and then get rid of that one and make a slightly different one, and get rid of that one and make one in which there are people much more intelligent than humans on every planet, and each one has 5 hands and 3 feet, and then get rid of that one and make another one, and so forth, billions or googolplexes of times in a billionth of a billionth of a second, and still make it seem as if the universe was more than 13.8 billion years old and the Earth was more than 4.5 billion years old and had contained living organisms for 4 billion years, or anything else which any of us could or could not imagine, because "omnipotent" means he can do anything, period, and being 3 people at once is far from the most amazing thing He could do.

That's what I was taught as a Christian child. Maybe other Christians don't believe exactly the same as that, I don't know.

Now, to me, a much more pertinent question seems to be: If God exists, why does He hide himself from atheists?

The theists, of course, have a stupid answer prepared and just waiting for that question: "He does show Himself to you all the time, you're just ignoring Him. Look at that tree! Now how can you say there's no God?!"

Which is why I don't go around asking my question even though it seems more pertinent to me.

How do you change a theist's mind about the existence of God? Now THAT'S a good question! I have no idea how to do it. After after several years' worth of contact with New Atheists, I have much, much less desire to do it. These days, without having come to regard God's existence as one bit more likely, I think about converting to Catholicism or Islam just to make it even clearer that I'm not a New Atheist. I've been an atheist since the mid-1970's. These days, after a lot of contact with New Atheists, I often start to cringe when I hear that someone's an atheist.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Tallest Skyscrapers In The World

According to The Skyscraper Page, 15 of the 25 tallest high-rises in the world were completed in 2010 or later. 20 of those 25 are in Asia, including 12 in China. The current 25th-tallest building in the world was the famous #1 tallest building for several decades: it's the Empire State Building. You probably know that in NYC, One World Trade Center is taller than the Empire State Building. You may not have known that the Empire State Building is no longer #2 in NYC: earlier, this year, the new #2, 432 Park Avenue, was completed. At 1396 feet, it's the 14th-tallest skyscraper in the world. If all goes according to schedule, in 2018, 111 West 57th St will be the new 2nd-tallest skyscraper in NYC at 1438 feet, until 2019, when Central Park Tower, 1550 feet tall, is scheduled to be completed. Also in 2019, 30 Hudson Yards, 1296 feet tall, is scheduled to bump the former world #1 Empire State Building down to #6 in NYC.

But of course, NYC, which Kurt Vonnegut so aptly called "Skyscraper National Park," is, although not exactly shabby, to be sure, no longer the home of the world's most spectacular skyscrapers. One World Trade Center, 1776 feet tall, is currently the 4th-tallest skyscraper in the world, behind the Burj Khalifa at 2717 feet, Shanghai Tower at 2074 and the Mecca Clock Royal hotel at 1972. When all of the skyscrapers currently under construction are completed, One World Trade Center will have been bumped from the 4th highest in the world to the 13th, and the Burj Khalifa will fall from #1 to #4. In 2019 -- if all goes as planned -- the new #1 in 2019 will be Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 3281 feet tall.

I Know Nothing About Robert Mapplethorpe's Private Life. (Sure, I've Heard Some Things...)

What good is becoming a rich and famous artist if you can't use that fame to open doors for other artists?

It's a mistake to think that you know about people's lives because you saw a documentary about them. Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures makes it seem that Robert Mapplethorpe was extremely self-centered, to the point of being appalled at the very idea that someone else's artistic career could have been furthered by their association with him.

We don't know about other people's lives. Not through the media, we don't. I got a pang when I noticed in the end credits of The Dark Knight that it was written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. (Christopher Nolan directed the film, in case you're not up-to-date on extremely-famous movie directors.) I assumed, correctly, that Christopher and Jonathan are brothers. I've learned that they've worked together on several projects. The pang I got when I saw that credit was one of envy. I thought; How wonderful it must be to work with your brother. I know little about the mechanical engineering and corporate executive work my brother does, and he knows doodly-squat about anything to do with the arts or philosophy, and seems determined to stay that way forever.

But I have no way of knowing how wonderful or awful it is to be either one of the Nolan brothers or how pleasant or miserable it is to work with the other one. I know that my own brother and I are not close, that's all I know.

Then last night I watched Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, and learned how Robert Mapplethorpe's younger brother Edward worked for him, developing his photographs, and that when Edward was about to show some pictures of his own, Robert got very upset, talked about Edward "riding his coattails," and talked him into changing his name to Edward Maxey. And how Robert met a young man and made him his lover and model, until others also began to be interested in using him as a model, at which point he quickly went, in Robert's view, from a lover and model to a "hanger-on," and their relationship ended. Robert seemed like a monster, like a very nasty, profoundly ungenerous person.

That's how it looked in the documentary. And that also matches some of the media buzz, during his lifetime and since, about how selfish Robert was. Then again, the brother and the lover/model were both interviewed for the film, while Robert Mapplethorpe has been dead since 1989, and so was unavailable to tell his side of things. If I had known Robert Mapplethorpe, and if I also knew Edward, and this model and other of Robert's models, and some of the artists of various genres who were close to Robert, and if I knew Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who directed Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, then, perhaps, I would feel qualified to tell you whether the film got Robert Mapplethorpe exactly right, or completely wrong, or somewhere in between. My first thought after having watched the documentary last night was the first sentence in this blog post: "What good is becoming a rich and famous artist if you can't use that fame to open doors for other artists?" My second thought is: for all I know, Robert Mapplethorpe did open many of those doors, and maybe his brother Edward and that model really were just two of the hangers-on.

I don't know. It was just a movie made by people I'd never heard of. Maybe they're exactly right. I don't know.

I'd like to think that when I become rich and famous -- any day now -- I'll use my fame in order to help some deserving talented people who're working in obscurity as I have been up until now. But I don't know what it'll be like to be rich and famous, and I don't know what I'll do when I am. And I don't know what public opinions of my private life will circulate.

So why did I write this blog post? Maybe because even if Robert Mapplethorpe was every bit as much of a big meanie as Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures portrays him to have been (I have no reason to think that Bailey and Barbato are incompetent or devious or duped. None at all.), he still wrote a will dedicating his fortune to creating a foundation which promotes the recognition of photography as an art form and funds AIDS research. And because I find some of his photographs beautiful.