Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mansplaining



I can't remember having done this very often. Does this mean I'm a great guy, or that I have a lousy memory? The Rand Paul "Shh, shh!"-level of mansplaining condescension made me cringe, all the more so because Paul has been a couple of horrible mistakes away from the Republican nomination for President. I'm almost entirely sure I've never or almost never been that much of a pig.

(And why do we call it "being a pig" anyway? We eat pigs, and if that weren't enough, we constantly insult them, too. I have never had a close relationship with a pig like I have with dogs and cats, but I've read moving descriptions of human-pig friendships.)

(According to Stephen Berard's novel Capti, written mostly in Latin, the 13th-century philosopher Roger Bacon developed such a friendship when he was old, and died of grief when he found out that his fellow monks, who disapproved of the friendship, had killed, butchered and cooked his friend and were eating him. I'm not sure whether that's an historical anecdote or something Berard made up.)

Women, girls: please speak up and speak out! I probably have mansplained now and then, and I apologize for that. Since it has been explained to me that mansplaining is a thing, I have tried to be more aware of it and to do it less.

It may well be that sometimes I have mansplained, but that I would have shut up if the woman or women or girl or girls to whom I was speaking had been a little more insistent, and fought a bit harder for the floor, as it were. Shouting matches aren't pretty, but they may be a temporary step up in human evolution over a man mansplaining while a women just goes quiet and wide-eyed.

And, of course, there's a possibility that I don't understand this issue at all, because I'm autistic, which means that I experience social interaction differently than do most people. If this entire post has been a complete waste of time for 99% of you, I certainly apologize.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Stave Off Idiocracy, Call An idiot an Idiot Today!

I suppose nothing should surprise me which goes through the weak minds of people who think that it'd be a good idea to elect Donald Trump President of the United States, but the level of their idiocy has still managed to surprise me twice in the past couple of days, both times having to do with the intersection of politics and show biz.

First, fans of the movie Murrkin Sniper were outraged because the star of the movie, Bradley Cooper, attended the Democratic National Convention, in clear violation of the agreement he signed, never to attend any political function without the approval of Murrkin Sniper's director, Clint Eastwood --

Wait, wait. I forgot: Cooper never signed such an agreement. No actor has ever signed such an agreement upon making a movie, no author when publishing a book, no recording artist, ever, either (more about that shortly).

And even if Cooper did sign such an agreement, which apparently exists in the minds of some of his most moronic fans, not even Clint Eastwood, enormously overrated as an artist, and dumb enough to talk to an empty chair at a Republican National Convention for the length of an entire excruciating sketch, not even Mumblin' Clint is stupid enough to think he has any right to tell actors what their politics need to be just because they've slummed and worked with him.

Then I saw a headline about how Katy Perry's fans were furious with her for singing at the Democratic Convention. I stared at that headline and strained to imagine how Katy Perry's fans could think this was somehow there business. I've thought of her music, her videos, her general demeanor all as exuding messages like "You are amazing, everybody!" and "Sexuality is fun, hahaha!" rather than things like "Bow down in shame before Jesus!" Has Katy Perry recorded some gospel music? Yes, it turns out she has, but not since she was a teenager in the earliest months of the 21st century. But what is ticking these fans off is not what Katy did when she was a teenager, but before that: she was born to evangelical pastors. Because of how she was born, some of her Republicans fans are trying to tell her what's what. Those parents are still around, and they're still evangelicals and they're Republicans, but as far as I can tell they still get along with Katy and treat as if she has the right to live her own life.

Oh, but parents is one thing, fans is another.

I might not ever get famous before I die. I hope I do, and that I get a whole bunch of crazy fans I can insult in my daily life and in my work and in interviews, and take out restraining orders against. But just in case I die before I get fans who expect things from me, let me just say to each and every one of them right now, in a special individual posthumous message for each one: Fuck you, you psycho. Get your own damn life. This one was mine.

Of course, that's just me talking to imaginary posthumous fans. How Cooper or Perry react to their psycho fans -- is no more my business than what Cooper or Perry do is those fans' business.

But I feel like I do have more of a right, somewhat more, to say to the MSM: tell us all how stupid these people are. Say it, on the air and in print, don't wait until the commercial break to explode, if you do that you're wasting the best you have to give: the TRUTH. Tell us how stupid, how frigging INSANE they are. Tell them. Admit to yourselves, at long last, that that whole thing about "objective journalism" was a mirage and a mistake. Give the public the benefit of your knowledge before morons who think the politics of movie stars and recording artists is their business take over the whole damn country because you were too "objective" to warn anyone. When one side is normal, clear-thinking people and the other side is a bunch of idiots and sociopaths, and you struggle and strive to act as if both sides were the same, that's not objectivity, it's a strong right-wing bias.

Sing us out, Katy, Snoop!



America, This is Our Chance To Elect Just The 3,047th Female Head Of State In The History Of The World!

Am I exaggerrating? Maybe. By much? Maybe not! Take a look:

17.12.1917-09.03.1918 Acting Head of the Government Evheniya Bohdanivna Bosch, Ukraine. 06.04.1940-11.10.1944 Head of State Khertek Anchimaa-Toka, People's Republic of Tannu Tuva. 21.07.1960-27.03.1965, 29.05.1970-23.07.1977, 14.11.1994-10.8.2000 Prime Minister Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka. 19.01.1966-24.03.1977, 14.01.1980-31.10.1984 (†), Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India. 31.10.1968-24.02.1972 Acting Head of State Song Qingling, China. 17.03.1969-10.04.1974 Minister President Golda Meïr, Israel. 01.07.1974- 24.03.1976 Executive President Maria Estella Martínez de Perón, Argentina. 03.01.1975-07.04.1976 Premierministre Élisabeth Domitién, Central African Republic. 08-1977-09.1977 Minister President Lucinda E. da Costa Gomez-Matheeuws, The Netherlands Antilles. 03.05.1979-22.11.1990 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, United Kingdom of Great Britain. 01.08.1979-3.01.1980 President of the Council of Ministers Dr. Maria de Lourdes Ruivo da Silva Pintasilgo, Portugal. 17.11.1979-18.07.1980 Interim Executive President Lidia Gueiler Tejada, Bolivia. 21.07.1980-14.06.1995 Prime Minister Dame M. Eugenia Charles, Dominica. 01.08.1980-01.08.1996 President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Iceland. 04.02.1981-14.10.1981, 09.05.1986-16.10.1989, 30.11.1990-25.10.1996, Minister of State Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway. 01.04.1981-01.10.1981 Captain Regent Maria Lea Pedini Angelini, San Marino. 21.09.1981-17.011.1993 Governor General Dame Elmira Minita Gordon, Belize. 15.02.1982-15.02.1987 President Agatha Barbara, Malta. 24.03.1982-25.03.1985 President of the Government Lucette Michaux-Chevry, Guadalupe. 15.05.1982-15.05.1986 Chairperson of the Council of Ministers Milka Planinc, Yugoslavia. 01.04.1984-01.10.1984 Captain Regent Gloriana Ranocchini, San Marino. 14.05.1984-29.01.1990 Governor General The Rt. Hon. Jeanne Sauvé, Canada. 14.05-16.05.1984 Acting Head of State Carmen Pereira, Guinea Bissau. 18.09.1984-01.01.1986, 17.051988-25.12.1993 Minister President Maria Ph. Liberia-Peters, Nederlandse Antillen. 25.2.1986-30.06.1992 Executive President Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco Aquino, The Philippines. 05.10.1987-30.12.1987 Prime Minister Princess Stella Margaret Nomzamo Sigcau, Transkei. 02.12.1988-06.08.1990, 19.10.1993-05.11.1996 Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan. 13.03.1990-07.02.1991 Acting President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, Haiti. 17.03.1990-10.01.1991 Minister President Kasimiera Prunskienė, Lithuania. 05.04.1990-02.10.1990 Acting Head of State Dr. Sabine Bergmann-Pohl, East-Germany. 25.04.1990-10.01.1997 Executive President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Nicaragua. 20.11.1990-21.03.1996 Governor General Dame Catherine Tizard, New Zealand. 03.12.1990-12.09.1997 President Mary Robinson, Ireland. 20.03.1991-30.03.1996, 01.09.2001-29.10.2006 Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh. 01.10.1991-01.04.1992 Captain Regent Edda Ceccoli, San Marino. 15.05.1991-02.04.1992 Premier Ministre Edith Cresson, France. 08.07.1992-26.10.1993 Minister President Hanna Suchocka, Poland. 25.01.1993-15.09.1994 Premier Marita Petersen, The Faeroe Islands. 01.04.1993-01.10.1993 Captain Regent Patrizia Busignani, San Marino. 25.06.1993-07.03.1996 Minister President Tansu Çiller, Turkey. 25.06.1993-04.11.1993 Prime Minister A. Kim Campbell, Canada. 10.07.1993-11.02.1994 Premier Ministre Sylvie Kinigi, Burundi. 18.07.1993-07.05.1994 (†) Premier Ministre Agathe Uwilingiymana, Rwanda. 25.12.1993-28.12.1993 Minister President Suzanne Camelia-Römer, Nederlandse Antillen. 19.8.1994-14.11.1994 Prime Minister Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Sri Lanka, 14.11.1994-19.11.2005 Executive President. 16.10.1994-25.01.1995 Interim Minister President Reneta Ivanova Indzhova, Bulgaria. 06.06.1990-19.12.1995 (†) Governor General Dame Nita Barrow, Barbados. 07.11.1995-27.02.1996 Premier Minister Claudette Werleigh, Haïti. 23.06.1996-15.7.2001, 06.01.2009- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh. 19.07.1996-04.11.1998 President Biljana Plavsic, Republic of Srpska. 03.09.1996-02.08.1997 Chairperson of the Council of State Ruth Sando Perry, Liberia. 09.02.1997-11.02.1997 Acting Executive President Rosalia Arteaga Serrano de Fernández de Córdova, Ecuador. 17.03.1997-22.12.1997 Prime Minister Janet Jagan, Guyana, 19.12.1997-11.08.99 Executive President. 17.09.1997- Governor General Dame C. Pearlette Louisy, St. Lucia. 11.11.1997-11.11.2011 President Mary McAleese, Ireland. 08.12.1997-10.12.1999 Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, New Zealand.

Aaaarggghh! I'm sorry, ladies, I really am, but we're only up to 1997 and I have other things to do. 6 women assumed office as head of state in 1997, 10 did so in 2105, 5 have so far in 2016.

That makes a total of... Let's see... 1, 2 3... every country on Earth except the US and the Vatican.

So it's not just congratulations to Hillary, it's congratulations and about freakin' time! Let's join the human race, America!

Idiots And Democracy


An idiot holds up a sign reading, "Not Hillary, Not Trump," illustrating one of the most exasperating aspects of politics, one for which I thus far have shown no talent: dealing with idiots. It's not just that some people are too dumb to see a difference between Trump and Hillary big enough to justify voting for one or the other, which is already pretty damn dumb. Beyond that, a significant number of people actually believe that Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Bernie Sanders actually has a chance to win. (Who knows how many idiots didn't believe that, until they read the last sentence and completely misunderstood it, and have now switched from campaigning for Hillary or Trump to campaigning for Stein or Johnson or Sanders.)

Pollsters are saying that up to 20% of registered voters now plan to vote for Stein or Johnson, with about 40% each left over for Hillary and Trump. That means that, although in reality perhaps every election is completely about winning the idiot vote, there's no doubt that this Presidential election is.

Of course, beyond the 20% Stein-or-Johnson-no-doubt-they're-idiots-bloc, some of the Trump and Hillary supporters are idiots too. It's harder to tell how big this voting bloc is, and it may also be much harder to campaign to this bloc, because who knows many idiots are voting for either Trump or Hillary only because they completely misunderstand where the candidate stands on the issues about which they care most? For example, people supporting Trump because they think he's pro-union, or supporting Hillary because they think she's against a woman's right to choose. I think it's pretty safe to say that the percentage of voters who are that confused or worse about every Presidential campaign is bigger than that of those who voted for Nader in 2004, and possibly comparable to those who voted for him in 2000.

In any case, the number is too high to be safely ignored.

So how do we deal with those voters, how do we lure as many as possible over to the Democratic side?

Like I said at the beginning of this post: I have no flippin' idea. I have no practical suggestions to offer, other than to urge those of you who are skilled at persuading idiots to keep in mind that there are a huge number of them out there, and to do whatever you can. Thank you.

Anyhow: although it's very, very early, the first post-Democratic-Convention polls are encouraging. One poll says that Missouri has gone from safely in Trump's column to a tossup. Wouldn't it be sweet if that poll turns out to be accurate, not an outlier, and if it stays that way, and we win Missouri? Don't laugh: it was awfully close in 2008. McCain only won by 3903 votes, 1,445,814 to 1,441,911

And I'd really like to win Texas too. I know everybody considers Texas to be deep-red Presidentially, but I look at the same data that's out there for everybody else to see, and it looks kinda purple to me. (And I'm way above average at math.)

I repeat: it's early. Almost every Presidential candidate gets a post-convention bump, we shouldn't overvalue Trump's bump, too many people have been panicking about that. And we shouldn't get carried away if Hillary gets a big bump too.

But it would be so nice if we just mopped the floor with those suckers this time...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Michelle Mentions White House Being Built By Slaves, O'Reilly "Responds"

In what right-wing parallel universe is what Bill O'Reilly said a response to what Michelle Obama said? O'Reilly says that the slaves who worked on the construction of the White House were well-fed. Did Michelle, in her Convention speech on Monday, say anything about how they were fed? O'Reilly said that slave labor was used by contractors on the construction, and that non-slave labor was involved as well. Did Michelle say otherwise? and by the way -- so what?

O'Reilly is one of the leaders of conservatism in the US. It'd be one thing if one of the followers said such things, one of those bringing up the rear, intellectually, of the entire group of millions. But no. This jackass, this stupid man, is one of their leaders. Shame on those of us who know our euphemisms from holes in the ground for letting these idiots give us such stiff competition. Shame on us.

The Big Dog Crushed It

8 years ago, Bill Clinton gave the world the impression that he liked Barack Obama very much. Last night, he gave the world the impression that he likes his wife very much -- and who knows, this time it might actually be true. I'm not under the impression that the impression we get on TV from movie stars and politicians is necessarily accurate. Part of the reason I don't believe we actually get to know these people through the tube is that I've actually met a few movie stars and politicians, and the actual person I met was always a surprise. Instead of continuing the imaginary relationship we formed with a celebrity on TV, meeting one of them has always meant that things went off on a tangent, sometimes a pleasant tangent and sometimes an unpleasant one. But I never judge someone I've known for half a minute if it's an unpleasant half-minute, because anybody can have a bad day, even if I've had a long imaginary relationship with them because they've been on my favorite sitcom for years.

Over the past 8 years, the public has gotten a few strong hints that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are not, in fact, close personal friends. As far as how Bill and Hillary get along, I'm not even going to guess.

And the main reason I'm not going to guess is because I don't feel it's any of my business, or yours, unless you happen to be Bill or Hillary or maybe as many as 2 or 3 other people. But politics is everybody's business, and Bill's speeches 8 years ago and last night were politics. I don't care if that big hug between Bill and Barack on the convention stage 8 years ago was bullshit in terms of their personal relationship: politically, it was very important, and politics is more important than the personal stuff. 8 years ago, the Big Dog gave a very effective speech for a very highly-qualified Presidential candidate, and last night he did it again. Hillary's abilities and qualifications are our business. The lack of substance of the charges constantly hurled at her from the Right is definitely our business. I admit, I was kind of caught up in Bill's depiction of some of the aspects of his private life with Hillary. I'm not immune to his speaking skills, I'm not made of stone. But the important thing about that drama is how Bill used it to deliver a long, detailed, fact-checkable list of his wife's remarkable political achievements, and then asked -- the link is a full transcript of Bill's speech:

How did this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention? What's the difference in what I told you and what they said? How do you square it? You can't. One is real, the other is made up.

You just have to decide. You just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.


I like that. I like it very much. How do you get people to behave more intelligently? You remind them that they can.

We'll never really know for sure how accurate Bill's charming portrayal of his private life with Hillary was -- and, again, it's none of our business. But the highlights of Hillary's resume about which Bill spoke -- drugs for AIDS patients in Africa, the sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, the upgrades in battlefield equipment for US military personnel, legislation for adoptions of foster children, the decades' worth of fighting for greater access to health care, etc, etc -- these were the highlights of Bill's speech. Hillary's political qualifications. And as voters, those are the things which are our business, and the reasons you should watch or read Bill's entire speech if you haven't already, and re-watch it or re-read it if you have. Don't worry, there's plenty of adorable private stuff to liven it up, like how Bill supposedly was too shy to speak to her when he first saw her on the campus of Yale in 1971, and just followed her around like a helpless puppy until she finally came up to him and introduced herself: "Look, if you're going to keep staring at me, and now I'm staring back, we at least ought to know each other's name. I'm Hillary Rodham, who are you?"

Awwwww... Was the Big Dog really such a helpless little puppy back in 1971?

Once again: I don't care.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Good For Sarah Silverman!

Last night, Sarah Silverman -- who had campaigned for Bernie -- interrupted a bit she was doing with Al Franken, long in the tank for Hillary, a bit about party unity, about coming together. She interrupted that bit to talk directly to the booing, heckling Sanders delegates; she said, "You're being ridiculous!" And she got a great big cheer for that.

Sarah is so awesome in so many ways. She was right. Of course she was right. The awesome part is that she said it right to their faces from the Convention stage. The Sanders die-hards were being ridiculous, and they probably still are being ridiculous at this very minute, and I'm quite sure, unfortunately, that they will be very ridiculous at the Convention tonight. I wish more Democrats would speak up like Sarah, instead of continuing to do everything they can to appease Bernie's diehards in the hope that they will eventually come around -- when?

And Bernie. Yes, he endorsed Hillary again last night -- sort of -- but he began his speech by reminding his delegates that they could vote for him tonight, Tuesday night. He's endorsing Hillary but he still hasn't conceded. That's not rational. Thank God this egotistical, low-information demagogue will never be President.

Bernie is being ridiculous. The ridiculous fish which is -- is, God help us all! Not was! Is! -- his campaign stinks from the head. The irrationality, inconsistency, petulance of the diehards, all come directly from Bernie.

The great majority of the people who voted for him in the primaries are better than he is. They moved on and started supporting Hillary a long time ago. Bernie is going to insist on a roll call tonight, when the delegates officially elect the nominee for President. Ordinarily, in a situation like this, when the candidates supposedly have come together and the also-rans supposedly are behind the winner, someone in Bernie's situation would have officially dropped out and would call for nomination by acclamation. For the sake of party unity. For the sake of the best possible result in November. But Bernie isn't doing that. He's not quite irrational enough to think he still might be elected, but he's too egotistical to really get behind anybody else politically. Little wonder he was in a so-called Socialist party of one for so long.

And, of course, Bernie's ego is feeding into the irrationality of his die-hards who still think he can be elected. And a lot of those die-hards will be voting for him at the Convention tonight, and screaming about how they were robbed when Hillary wins. Bernie keeps this craziness going. He says his number-one priority is defeating Trump, but that's obvious nonsense. His number-one priority is always Bernie, Bernie, hooray for Bernie! His die-hards didn't just suddenly appear out of nowhere, heckling the rest of the world and constantly screaming that they're being cheated, for no reason, with nothing having caused them.

You think the die-hards are going to come around as long as everybody keeps acting as if they were making perfect sense? You think that if Bernie makes a speech the week before Election Day which is supposed to be a campaign speech for Hillary and other Democrats, he's going to deliver a speech which isn't almost all about himself? If so, I don't know what world you've been paying attention to.

Some talking head last night asked how long the patience of Hillary's supporters will last in the face of the infantile behavior of the die-hard Sanders supporters. Obviously, my own patience with them ran out a long time ago, right away, as soon as I saw and heard them.

Supposedly, we're more rational, more fact-based than the GOP. So let's be that way. Let's not be so accommodating to irrationality and tantrums from within our ranks. Let's tell people when they're being ridiculous.

Bernie -- you're being ridiculous! You've been ridiculous for decades!

Let's have some standards.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Bernie-Or-Busters Are Getting Their Moment

"When feelings are so badly hurt, they must be recognized." -- one of the leading idiots from the Sanders campaign, in an MSNBC interview around 7:30 PM on the first night of the convention, questioned about the way that so many of the Sanders delegates are booing every time Hillary's name is mentioned.

I couldn't have put it better myself. This is all about the feelings of outraged Sanders supporters.

They are a bunch of grown-ass crybabies.

A few hours ago, Bernie asked a meeting of his delegates to support Hillary, and he was booed. I hope he's not so dumb that that surprised him. He should've been preaching party unity to his supporters for months now. Weeks at the very least. Suspending his campaign -- that would've headed off this sort of Convention Night 1 cluster&@#$.

We can't really even call them his supporters when they're booing him and ignoring what he asks them to do. It doesn't make much sense for them to wear Bernie T-shirts and boo Bernie at the same time.

But, of course, the Sanders campaign has never been about making sense. It's about feelings.

Bernie's Convention speech is coming up later tonight. It will be interesting. I wonder whether he'll mention Hillary's name.

I don't think he'll be able to get away with rebuking his delegates and asking them to behave like grown-ups invoolved in something very important, because: pot, kettle...

A Modest Suggestion For Democrats About Tactics

I don't know if there's actually much that Democrats could learn from the GOP, but one thing is the way that Republicans brush off things much more heinous than the things they manage to get to stick to Democrats -- which often enough aren't true to begin with. In cases where the allegations against Democrats actually are true, instead of saying, "Yes, I've been caught, and I'm deeply ashamed of this email/dick pic/yacht trip/yelling 'WHOOO!' after I won a primary/whatever. I've let the people down, and I'll immediately resign in disgrace, of course," how about: "Are you kidding me?! Have you got any questions about any REAL issues? Things that affect people's lives? You want to talk about the emails? Ask Donald! He'll talk to you all day about the emails! He's not the slightest bit distracted by real political issues!" ?

Just a suggestion. Just food for thought. And of course: when the allegations are false, Democratic politicians could be even more dismissive than that.

All I'm saying is: stay focused on the important things. Don't ALLOW ridiculous meaningless little things to be blown up into scandals. Play like you actually want to win!

(I've been using the word "actually" very frequently recently, you're absolutely right about that. I have no excuses. I offer my humble apologies to all of my readers over this egregious overuse of one adverb, and, in the tradition of great Democratic wimps like Hubert Humphrey and Al Gore, I am withdrawing my candidacy from this election in order to spend more time with my family. Someone, please tape this "Kick Me" sign to my back as I turn around and walk away.)

Let's Keep Our Eye On The Ball, Democrats: We're Here To Beat Trump!

"If you can convince the lowest white man that he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll even empty his pockets for you." -- LBJ in late 1963 or early 1964, quoted by Bill Moyers.

Over a half-century has passed since Johnson laid it out like that, and it wasn't the last headline back then either, and, as the Trump campaign and the 2016 Republican convention made repugnantly clear, we haven't conquered that despicable practice yet. Not yet. However, we can deal it a great blow in November, IF we keep our eye on the ball and unite against the Republicans.

Similarly, of course, to what LBJ said about keeping poor whites fighting with blacks, if you can keep the people in an opposing political party fighting amongst themselves, it'll be that much easier for you to get the better of them. Bernie, for example, says over and over again that his most important goal is defeating Trump, while putting a lot more actual time and effort into the conflicting goal of destroying Debbie Wassermann-Schultz. That sort of chickenshit squabbling between Democrats and Democrats-since-last-year -- that is to say: this squabbling of Democrats-since-last-year against Democrats -- is great news for Trump and the Republicans. Bernie is still grinding away about how he wuz robbed instead of telling his followers how important it is to vote for Hillary and the Democratic ticket.

Who knows: now that it looks like Bernie "politics gets a little rough sometimes" Sanders has actually succeeded in slaying the Great Dragon Debbie, maybe he'll be in a good enough mood to actually give Hillary a real endorsement, one that's actually more about her than about himself. Am I optimistic about that? Take a guess!

I wish the Democratic leadership had just brushed off this "scandal" about Debbie and emails. I urge all of us to do so. So some Democrats actually privately expressed a preference for one candidate over another. Bernie himself may actually never in his life get over it, but it's high time the rest of us did. Everything Debbie did, plus everything else Bernie imagines that she did, doesn't add up to chickenshit compared to the importance of -- of what? Of that thing Bernie keeps claiming is the most important thing to him: defeating Donald Trump. Bernie, news flash: your war against Debbie has not been helping to defeat Trump. Not even a little bit.

Now for God's sake let's forget about that "scandal" and move on. Let's please have an organized, methodical, productive Convention -- whether Bernie likes it or not! Hillary 2016 and the straight Democratic ticket! Let's not just defeat Trump, let's crush him and the hate and ignorance he stands for!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Yikes!

Keep an eye on Alaska's many wildfires with this map.

"Last updated: 24 Jul 2016, 11:50. Data from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, which is currently tracking 176 fires in Alaska (active, smoldering or in the process of being demobilized). Circles represent the size, but not the shape, of the fire. This page is hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic Region Supercomputing Center as part of the UAF SMOKE forecast project."

Many of the circles are red, representing fires covering more than 2500 acres each. 2560 acres is 4 square miles.

Global warming global schwarming, right? Drill, Baby, drill!

Thought-Experiment About Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine And Hollywood

If Einstein, Planck, Bohr and other prominent physicists had make a concerted effort, around, say, 1920, to warn against the dangers of using radioactive materials in research, and had succeeded in keeping such research very small-scale and protective measures at a very high level, would they have succeeded in effectively banning nuclear power and weapons 20 years before they were developed, simply because things like radium and uranium and plutonium were consistently treated like exactly what they are: extremely dangerous things which should be kept as far from people as possible? At the very least, they might've lengthened Marie Curie's life a little bit, and who knows to how many beneficial scientific breakthroughs that alone might have led? And she's only the most famous of many physicists who killed themselves with radioactivity.

And if this had happened, would there have been fewer of those dopey movies made whose message, in a nutshell, is: Oh noes! Cutting-edge science and technology is leading directly to an apocalypse which will eradicate all of mankind, helphelphelp they're gonna kill us all?

You say you hadn't noticed such anti-STEM fearmongering in Hollywood? Well, sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. Take a stroll with me through time: remember 1995? People were starting to get excited about the Internet. Remember the 1995 movie The Net, with Sandra Bullock and Dennis Miller? Sweet Sandra's life is threatened by one swarm of evil people after another -- all because she works on the (duh-duh-DUHHHHH!) Internet. Remember 2001's Swordfish, with convicted hacker Hugh Jackman forced by extremely-dangerous John Travolta and completely-topless Halle Berry, tempted by evil, evil cutting-edge equipment to participate in extreme violence via the (duh-duh-DUHHHHH!) Internet? Like many other movies, Swordfish is notable for unintentionally-hilarious depictions of how non-experts imagine that cutting-edge technology works. Movies about computers tend to age very badly.

Remember what genetic modification led to in The Fly and the Jurassic Park movies? Not to mention almost every single Frankenstein movie? Young Frankenstein ends pretty nicely. It's the only exception which occurs to me at the moment. Can you name one other Hollywood movie in which genetic engineering leads to anything other than pure horror? ("How could you have been so blind as not to see that playing God would end up killing us all?! Oh, damn you, damn you, you fool!")

Or artificial intelligence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Terminator movies, the Matrix movies, or, to take a more recent example which may or may not prove to be as memorable, Transcendence, released in 2014, starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman, which has both the hilariously non-realistic computer stuff and the horrifying apocalypse as the inevitable result of AI? ("Oh, how could you have been so blind?! How could you not have seen that the attempt to make a computer brain could only lead to huge massacres?!" That's not a direct quote from the script of Transcendence but it's pretty damn close.) You beginning to see the trend I'm talking about?

You beginning to understand how vaccination could be so unpopular in Hollywood because so many people there don't understand STEM (that's Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) and have an uninformed fear and loathing of it?

I agree, unreservedly, that nuclear energy and nuclear bombs are very, very bad things, and that it's only natural that they would lead to an association of STEM and disaster in many minds. But things could have been very different. Scientists themselves could have prevented that nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs ever came to be, and if they had acted early enough, that prevention could have been relatively easy. There's nothing intrinsic about physics which had to lead straight to nukes.

And the fact that those bombs and plants did come to be has had a tremendous effect on the way that people in STEM research work. But that's one of the things you don't know if you don't know very much about STEM besides what you see in movies.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How About A Series Of Democratic Fundraising Concerts...

... featuring only musical acts whose music Donald Trump is using at his political events, even though they've asked him to stop?

Trump isn't breaking any US law by doing this, as far as I know. But traditionally, if a musical act asked a politician to stop using their music, they'd stop. One more way that Donald Trump is new and different. One more way he's an asshole.

Adele, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, REM, Elton John, Luciano Pavorotii, Queen, Aerosmith... Those could be some really kick-ass concerts. In between sets they could play records by George Harrison, whose estate has asked Trump to stop using his music. (I'm not sure whether Twisted Sister would fit in in this line-up, or if they would be interested in participating: front sister Dee Snider asked Trump to stop using their music, and Trump actually stopped. Apparently Snider and Trump are old pals.) And the fact that every single one asked Trump to stop using their music, and they didn't... Those acts have a huge amount of fans. Concerts like these, with the musicians free to say political things between songs, might get a lot of people interested in politics who otherwise ignore it.


Admit it: this is not the kookiest political idea you've ever heard. It beats talking to an empty chair hands-down.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wie Schaffe Ich Ganz Grosse Kunst?

Ich wollte zwei Ansichten zum Kuenstlertum vergleichen: Zuerst das Schopenhauer-Zitat: "So zu schreiben, dass der Text nur dem Autor missfällt, ist die letzte erreichbare Stufe."

Dem direkt entgegensetzt: James Toback: grosse Kuenstler (er dachte, in seinem Aufsatz "The Great Directors and Hitchcock," veroeffentlicht in Rolling Stone in 1980, aus meinem Gedaechtnis zitiert, an Filmregisseure wie Eisenstein, Truffaut, Ford, Herzog, Bergmann, Godard, aber es passt auch zu anderen Genres) arbeiten vor allem um sich selbst zu gefallen, ob ihre Schoepfung irgenjemanden sonst gefaellt, ist Nebensache wenn nicht voellig egal.

Dann aber, natuerlich, habe ich herausgefunden, dass Schopenhauer das nie geschrieben hat.

Und natuerlich steht es Euch ganz frei, meinem Gedaechtnis ueber dem, was Toback geschrieben hat, zu vertrauen oder nicht. Den Aufsatz habe ich nicht gefunden, aber es scheint dass ich den Titel falsch wiedergeben habe: "The Great Filmmakers and Hitchcock" war es.

Also, wir koennten fuer jetzt Schopenhauer und Toback aus dem Ganzen lassen, und einfach fragen: schreibt und treibt und schweisst ein Kuenstler am besten fuer sich selbst oder fuer Andere? Ist es egal, wenn der Dichter missgefallen ist, wenn nur er es ist? Oder ist das Gedicht nur wirklich gross, wenn der Dichter sich selbst nicht nur fuer den groessten Kritiker haelt, sondern fuer den einzigen, auf den es ankommt?

Die Antwork ist ganz klar: man kann es nach dem Pseudo-Schopenhauer machen, oder nach dem moeglicherweise falsch erinnerte Toback, oder auch weder noch. Eigentliche Gesetze zum Schoepfen von Kunst gibt es noch nicht, und Trump ist noch nicht President, und dem mag es so kuenftig auch bleiben.

Ich mag den moeglicherweise falsch verstandenen Toback ganz besser. Arrogant? Ja, ja, gewiss, enorm arrogant ist es, Kunst ausschliesslich um sich selbst zu gefallen zu machen. Aber wenn ich recht habe ueber dem, was Toback schrieb, und Toback ueber Truffaut und Godard und Herzog usw, ist Arroganz eben angebracht, ist eben noetig, wenn wirklich grosse Kunst gemacht werden sollte.

Und wenn wir beide das alles ganz falsch sehen -- wuerde es nicht immer noch sehr viel mehr Spass machen, so zu tun, als haetten wir recht? Schopenhauer lesen tun viele von uns ganz gern, und wir lernen grosse Mengen davon, aber Wieviele moechten eigentlich so sein wie er?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Race In The US

So, we're starting to have a public discussion about race in the US, finally. There may have been a lot of discussion of such things in places like academia, but I think we're seeing the first real public discussion of it all now, at this late date.

I'm white, and I was raised (born 1961) by liberals to believe that race doesn't make anybody better or worse than anybody else, but that didn't mean that I was immune to all of the nonsense all around me. For one thing, despite the liberal attitudes of my parents, I met very few non-white people before I was full-grown, and there's only so much you can understand about race in an environment as segregated as that.

In the mid-1980's I was hanging around with a friend of mine who happened to be black, and I said something, I don't remember exactly what I said, but I said some ignorant thing about some people getting some advantage because they weren't white, and my friend, who had never said a cross word to me before then, went off, and made some very angry and direct and edifying comments which I've never forgotten, about how every single day he envied people who had white skin like me, and how he was constantly made aware of being judged by his race, and often harassed by the police for no other reason. I'm actually not sure whether he and I were good friends after that or if he ceased to consider me to be a friend because of what I'd said, and I have no idea if he ever had any idea of how deep an impression he'd made on me by what he said. He had beautiful glowing bronze-colored skin, and I had a pink face full of pockmarks, and he envied me for my skin. From then on I listened and looked a lot more carefully when it came to race.

In 1992 I saw the riots in LA after the police who beat Rodney King were all acquitted of all charges. I couldn't believe that people could look at that video and not see that something very, very wrong was happening, but of course since then we've all seen video after video after video of police doing very wrong things and then seen them be acquitted. If we're not blind, we've come to understand just how stubbornly blind many people are.

In November 1994 I moved to NYC, and was not yet used to being around lots and lots of non-white people all at once, and once I accidentally took a wrong subway train, and I ended up on a platform with a sign that said Flatbush, a crowded platform, and it seemed like everyone else there was black. And I was scared. I lived through that experience, and looking back on it I feel that I was a bit silly for being afraid.

I had moved to NYC with hopes of a career in acting. One of the shows I very much wanted to be in was "NYPD Blue." I'll never forget meeting a very wonderful actress, how she told me she'd been a trill in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and I responded, "I bet you were!" and I'll never forget the moment when she informed me that almost all of the filming of "NYPD Blue" was done in LA. This was still a good decade before I was diagnosed with autism. Autism no doubt had a lot to do with how I flubbed things like my attempt at an acting career, and like a shot at a relationship with that actress, who seemed to really like me, amazingly. (It amazed a few other people too, not just me.)

But anyway, in NYC, for the first time, I spent a lot of time in places where I might be the only white person around, and gradually it dawned on me that I didn't have to be afraid. And like I said, I was raised by people who were very liberal on race issues. So that makes me think about how screwed up the mentality of people who were raised by racists might be.

And then gradually it dawned on me that non-whites in the US have a lot more reason to be afraid of white people than the other way around. Around the time I moved to NYC, the episode of "NYPD Blue" aired where Lt Fancy (black) took Det Sipowicz (white) to a soul food restaurant in a black neighborhood, at the end of a shift in which Sipowicz has behaved with some racial insensitivity toward a black man suspected of a crime, who turned out to be innocent. "NYPD Blue" was on the air for over a decade, and one of the threads of the show was how Sipowicz, with the patient help of a lot of people including Fancy, gradually became less racist. Anyway, in the soul food restaurant, Sipowicz is the only white person in the place, and Fancy says, You don't know how these people feel about you. Maybe some of them dislike you, just because of how you look, and you didn't do anything to them. Now imagine if people like this surrounded you all day every day and they all had badges and guns.

A moment from a fictional TV drama. It's not a brilliant original insight on my part. But maybe it's food for thought.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

US Congressional Interns, Photographed This Summer

Please help make these photographs go viral. They're amazing.

First, the Democratic Congressional interns:


Now here's the Speaker of the House in front of the Republican Congressional interns:


It's evidence such as these two photos which hardens my suspicion that the full-time job description of every single non-White Republican in the United States -- all 12 of them -- is to constantly stay right in front of television cameras in order to strengthen the illusion that the GOP is diverse. But every now and then, like right now, they really get caught with their lily-white pants down.

I'm Sick Of Hearing People Say We've Got Two Terrible Candidates For President

We've got one candidate who may be the very worst ever nominated by a major US political party; and we've got one fine candidate who will make a great President, provided that enough of the sheer bullshit flung at her by right-wingers over the past quarter century is refuted in the public's perceptions so that she is, in fact, elected.

I have to admit that Hillary has one serious weakness, and that is when it comes to refuting ridiculous charges made against her and her husband. Examples of this weakness: a completely-accurate phrase she coined back in the 90's about a "vast right-wing conspiracy" dedicated to smearing the two of them, almost immediately became a beloved slogan of the right wing, with, for instance, Rush Limbaugh introducing his batshit-crazy-but-popular right-wing radio show as "the great right-wing conspiracy." Another example: Hillary's inability to make the uproars about Ben Ghazi and emails seem as ridiculous and manufactured to everyone as they are.

The right wing has been squandering public resources for a quarter-century trying to get something to stick to the Clintons, and they've come up with squat. I think the Clinton campaign should talk more about this, because there are a lot of voters out there who are appalled by Trump for very good reasons, but who are also appalled by Hillary, for no good reason whatsoever.

It's true that in 1998, after five years as a Special Prosecutor on a case called Whitewater because the case originally had to do with allegations of fiscal wrondoings involving a company named Whitewater, the egregiously partisan Kenneth Starr caught Bill Clinton lying about getting a blowjob. It's true that "I did not have sexual relations with that woman... Miss Lewinsky" was absolutely the wrong thing for Bill to say. Debating what the meaning of the word "is" is was very entertaining for me, but I think the vast majority of the public did not have the linguistic training and temperament to enjoy it the way I did.

No, what Bill should have said was, "Ken, blow it out your ass. You've been wasting the public's resources for five years, and all you've come up with is something which is none of your God damned business. You will be remembered forever as a punchline. Now excuse me because I've got serious matters to attend to." I know, he wasn't allowed to blow Kenneth off like that, but he wasn't supposed to lie under oath either. He might well have been impeached for refusing to co-operate with a Special Prosecutor, but the result would have been the same: he would have been acquitted although he was technically guilty, the same way he was acquitted although he had clearly lied under oath. He would have been acquitted for the same reason either way: because the special prosecution had clearly become a farcical fishing expedition. And if he'd done it my way, a healthy legal precedent would have been set when Congress officially ruled that there are, in fact, limits to a Special Prosecutor's powers.

James Comey, the head of the FBI who was unable to find any dirt on Hillary but was also unable to refrain from insinuating that she somehow got away with something, used to work for Kenneth Starr. I hope that news doesn't come as a complete shock to anyone. Here's an idea for future Democratic Presidents: stop appointing Republicans as Special Prosecutors and heads of the FBI and every frigging thing else. The GOP has more than used up all the goodwill Presidents Clinton and Obama have extended to them by reaching across the aisle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Uproar Over Melania's Plagiarism May Actually Be Good For Trump

Hi everybody, I'm Steven Bollinger, the Internet's Wrong Monkey. You know, the term "cluster****" is thrown around a lot these days, but how often has a major party's national convention made it's Presidential nominee's poll numbers go way down? I know, the GOP convention isn't over yet, so that was just a conjecture about a prediction on my behalf. And like many other people, I never saw the Trump candidacy coming to begin with, so, hey, what do I know anyway? I'm just a grown man who acts like a monkey on the Internet. Now, the news:

How awful was Day 1 of the 2016 Republican National Convention? Let me put it this way: the uproar over Melania Trump plagiarising a speech by Michelle Obama, and even the campaign blaming Melania's plagiarism on Hillary, may actually have been good for Trump, but only if it is distracting people from several other things which happened on Day 1 which were worse:

-- Pastor Mark Burns, in the convention's opening prayer, referred to Hillary and the Democrats as "the enemy." (Lincoln got through an entire 4-year-long civil war without ever referring to Democrats as the enemy. Party of Lincoln? Yeah, maybe that was still partly true in Teddy Roosevelt's 2nd term.)

-- Throughout the evening, inside the arena, the crowd frequently chanted "lock her up, lock her up" as various speakers made up various bullshit about things Hillary supposedly did, and all day outside the arena vendors were selling "Hillary For Prison" T-shirts.

-- After his speech on the convention floor, Antonio Sabato, Jr told an interviewer that he believes Obama is a Muslim.

-- Antonio Sabato, Jr was one of the convention's Day 1 speakers.

But -- once again -- what the Heck do I know about the mentality of people who would consider voting for Trump, or about how many such hopeless morons there are in this country? Barnum was right: never overestimate people's intelligence. About the best we can do is hope that intelligent people are sufficiently terrified by the thought of a Trump administration that they'll turn out to vote in record numbers, and that in addition to that we'll somehow manage to score a big enough slice of the idiot vote.

"May you live in interesting times" is not a Chinese blessing; it's a Chinese curse; except of course that it actually has nothing to do with any Chinese sayings, and comes from a series of misunderstandings committed by those 19th-century British middleclass twits, the Chamberlains.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Natural History Of Latin By Tore Jansen

Recently, I told you that Juergen Leonhardt was alright and recommended his book Latin: Story of a World Language. On p 8 of that book, Juergen mentioned some things which the book is not. For example,

"Its goal is not to recall the importance of Europe's Latin tradition or to review the treasures of classical, postclassical, and modern Latin literature."

Then Juergen lists a few titles which do exactly that, and one of those books is A Natural History of Latin by Tore Jansen.



While Leonhardt's Latin: Story of a World Language can be read with pleasure and profit by specialists and laypeople alike, Jansen book is definitely aimed more toward laypeople, toward people with little knowledge of the Latin language and its history. While Leonhardt analyzes relationships between Latin and other languages and society, going well beyond the boundaries of belles lettres to examine the roles Latin has played in diplomacy, law, commerce, science, math and elsewhere, Jansen concentrates mostly on literature, philosophy and and history -- belles lettres -- and mentions, mostly in chronological order, the most notable writers in the language, briefly describing their work and quoting many of them in Latin and then translating those quotations, from the earliest written examples of Latin which have survived down to the present day. Then there is a chapter about Latin grammar, a vocabulary list, a list of common Latin phrases, and suggestions for further reading.

Professor Jansen is slyly presenting an introductory Latin textbook here, disguised as a popular work about history.

Acquiring a second language almost always involves a lot of painful drudgery at first. There may be some people so gifted at language acquisition that they feel no such drudgery as they master one language after another. There are legends of such things among my people. I have never actually seen such a linguistic genius. I myself am not one. I go through the drudgery because I have learned that the rewards of getting past the first phase, getting to further phases where you can actually read and communicate in the foreign language, are wonderful.

It's not possible for me now to un-learn Latin and start over again with Jansen's book, but it seems possible to me that he has found a way around a great deal of the initial drudgery.

But don't be frightened: even if you're determined not to learn any Latin whatsoever, you can still skip the parts at the back of the book about grammar and vocabulary and further reading, and just read the English translations of the Latin passages in the main part of the book, and just possibly learn a lot and enjoy doing so, without learning Latin. Learning Latin from this book is optional.

If you're a layperson when it comes to languages and/or ancient Graeco-Roman history, and you know some weirdo like me, and you want to understand that weirdo better, A Natural History of Latin by Tore Jansen just might be very helpful with that.

And in conclusion, here's a picture of a kitten:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Snaplaces For Autism?

I'm autistic, I'm 55 years old and I've been tying my own own shoes for well over half a century. Today a saw a thing called Snaplaces which claims it's good for autistic children and adults, because it "allows us to tie our own shoes!!!"

This is the first time I've had any indication that tying my shoes might be harder than it is for some other people as a result of my autism.

Should I be congratulated for overcoming this hurdle so well? Or did Snaplaces invent this hurdle because they're slimy hucksters?

Should I thank Snaplaces for being wonderful kind people, or tell them to kiss my great big autistic ass? I really don't know.

One thing does make me lean a little toward the latter, though: VELCRO! Freaking velcro has been used as an alternative to shoelaces for decades now, and it seems to me that it would be a lot easier to use than Snaplaces. IF people found regular old shoelaces to be difficult.

I'm truly sorry if I'm wrong, but my first impulse is to lean slightly in the direction of "slimy hucksters."



Dream Log: Caught Up In "Game Of Thrones"

I dreamed that I was in "Games of Thrones" -- not an actor in the TV series, but a denizen of Westeros. Most of the dream took place in and around King's Landing. I got into a fight with someone and killed him, and then suddenly Queen Cersei confronted me with several of her guards, whom she told to take me captive, but I eluded them. While I was still within earshot I heard Cersei swearing revenge. Awful, awful, long, drawn-out revenge, beginning when I would be captured when I least suspected it. I had not set out to kill anyone, but I thought there was probably no point in sticking around and attempting to plead my case with the Queen.

I never figured out what the connection was between Cirsei and the man I killed, but apparently he had been important enough to Cersei for her to want to make an example of me. She didn't send a whole army in pursuit of me. I just saw Jaime coming after me. It wasn't clear to me whether Jaime cared at all about the man I had killed or whether he was just loyally following his Queen's and sister's orders, but either way, he pursued me tenaciously all over King's Landing and the surrounding area. Jaime and I clashed swords a couple of times, but only when he cornered me, not at my instigation. I didn't feel it was wise to confront him and try to fight my way out. I didn't see anyone else chasing me but I assumed Jaime had some help.

For some time, several days, Jaime chased me around a Medieval urban landscape of balconies and hallways and stairs and rooftops. I didn't sleep much or deeply, and I felt I was gradually losing my attempt to escape the horrible, horrible death Cirsei had promised me. On the other hand, the scenery was really swanky. Consistently upper-class. And in real life my bedroom windows were open, and the area outside my bedroom is woodsy, so the dream smelled very nice.

But finally it occurred to me that Queen Daenerys' invasion fleet was now close to King's Landing, so that this might be an excellent time to try to reach her and declare my loyalty to her. (How did I know she was coming? Cirsei and Jaime didn't know. It was going to be a surprise invasion. Oh well, it was a dream.)

I stole a horse, rode along the coast toward Daenerys' fleet, swam out to her ship and declared my loyalty. Daenerys had heard of me, and had heard that I hadn't thought that Cirsei and Jaime were all bad. I told her that this had been true in the past, but that Cirsei's vow to torture me to death and Jaime's tenacious efforts to capture me for that purpose had induced me to re-evaluate what sort of people they were. I also said that, like so many others, I had long thought that she, Daenerys, was way, way, extra-cool and groovy, and that in a clash between her and Cirsei I was always going to take her side, whether Cirsei wanted to torture me to death or not.

Daenerys spoke quietly with her advisor Tyrion for a moment, and then said that she was disposed to believe that my declaration of loyalty was sincere, and it was around this happy moment that I woke up.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Jump" By Van Halen

You heard me: "Jump," by Van Halen. Not a great record, but not bad either, in my opinion. ("Dance the Night Away" by Van Halen -- now THAT's a great record. That is some world-class electric guitar.)

People have been known to have strong and conflicting opinions about popular music. In 1984, I turned 23, and I and some other people would smoke weed and watch MTV, and "Jump" was in heavy rotation, and I thought Eddie Van Halen was a great guitarist (still do), and another one of those people definitely did not.

It's not so remarkable that a certain guitarist is not a certain person's cup of tea. The reason I'm writing this post is how much this guy disliked Eddie Van Halen. When "Jump" appeared on the tube, he would begin to snarl about how stupid Eddie Van Halen was, putting a fake moronic smile on his face meant to mock Eddie's smile in the video, and bob his head around and say, "Hi! I'm Eddie Van Halen!" and seemed to think that that was a devastating critique. I've been thinking about it for 32 years now, and I still can't see what was deep about his mockery: that was, in fact, Eddie Van Halen in the video, and why shouldn't Eddie smile if he was happy?

And none of this would have been remarkable if the guy who hated Eddie Van Halen so much was a moron, but this guy often said things which were devastatingly profound, about music and about other things. He was better-read in English than I was, and that's saying a lot. He was also a no-foolin' musician, with an impressive knowledge of jazz and classical as well as more popular forms.

It was not just the video of "Jump" which annoyed him greatly. I did as well, when I said that I thought that Eddie Van Halen was quite a guitar player.

I don't know what the consensus of music critics is today concerning Eddie Van Halen -- because I've pretty much stopped paying attention to music critics -- but back then, among critics who paid any attention to popular music at all, most thought he was awful. It's not so much that my friend agreed with them: he WAS one of those critics. Back then, as always, there were some of us who weren't inclined to let any critics' opinions interfere with us enjoying music we actually thought sounded good.

Each one of us was better friends with a third person. It wasn't so much that the music critic and I visited each other. That did happen, but far more often we just happened to visit our mutual friend at the same time. Our mutual friend was more into popular stuff and less into jazz and classical and "alternative rock" than the critic, but I think he followed the critical consensus more than I. I can't remember whether he weighed in when the critic and I would argue about Eddie Van Halen. I don't know whether our mutual friend had no opinion about Eddie. It may well have been that expressing that opinion was less important to him than not aggravating either one of us.

Or maybe he piled onto to me right alongside the critic, and I've suppressed the memory of it.

I heard David Lee Roth (Van Halen's lead singer on "Jump") talk about recording "Jump." He said that he came up with the keyboard riff which opens the song. He said that he was drinking a can of beer, and just mashing the can absentmindedly on the keyboard, and Eddie said Hey that sounds good, and that's the riff. I wonder whether that's true. If so, maybe that anecdote is a legitimate argument, from the critic's point of view, for people with his knowledge of music and his standards, that he's right about Van Halen being crap and about me having my head up my ass when it comes to music: cause the stuff I tend to like amounts to morons absentmindedly mashing on keyboards with beer cans as if they were apes.

The thing is, I don't care. And I think I'd enjoy hanging out with Eddie and David much more than I ever enjoyed hanging out with the critic.

But that's not the end of it: this also gives me insight into how I can be right and justified in my dislike of some writer -- say, Stephen King -- but at the same time, a Stephen King fan could be right not to care what I thought.

Not to mention how both a food critic and I could be right about the same meal, if I ate it and thought it was delicious, while the food critic thought it was disgusting and inedible -- not to mention that we could both be right if he was reading a Stephen King novel and thinking it was genius, and I saw him carrying the novel around and was unable to eat for a day and a half, or how we both could be right if the food critic saw me deeply enjoying Van Halen's "Dance the Night Away" and was appalled, and so on and so forth forever, when it comes to the arts (considering cuisine to be an art form, and there could also be legitimate disagreements about that, and so forth and so on...)

In conclusion, France is a land of contrasts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I Am Not Guilty Of Tsundoku!


At openculture.com, Jonathan Crow informs us that

The Japanese word tsundoku [...] means buying books and letting them pile up unread. The word dates back to the very beginning of modern Japan, the Meiji era (1868-1912) and has its origins in a pun. Tsundoku, which literally means reading pile, is written in Japanese as 積ん読. Tsunde oku means to let something pile up and is written 積んでおく. Some wag around the turn of the century swapped out that oku (おく) in tsunde oku for doku (読) – meaning to read. Then since tsunde doku is hard to say, the word got mushed together to form tsundoku.

I repeatedly had to try to convince my mother that I was not guilty of tsundoku: "I've read some of them all the way through, I've read at least a part of all of them, and each and every one of them may prove to be very crucial at any moment for reference! If they weren't I'd get rid of them!"

And it was all true! Ask some of the local used-book dealers if I haven't sold a few books to them!

And because she was a great Mom, she either tried to understand or tried to seem like she didn't think I was full of it on the subject of the books when she was around me, or both. She and I loved each other very much, but we were also very different in many ways. I'm sure she and other non-tsundoku would get together and commiserate about their tsundoku friends and relatives --

-- except that I, as I said, am not tsundoku! Maybe some people somewhere actually are, but not me! I'm making intensive use of all of this stuff! Don't try to change me! Get away from my books! No, I do NOT want a Kindle, thankyouverymuch! I'll gladly take a MacArthur or a Nobel, though!

This Is Who I Am

There's an episode of "The Simpsons" in which Lisa is afraid that she's losing her intelligence (SPOILER ALERT: Turns out she's fine.), and at one point, in despair, she decides to just give up and join the other stupid members of the family, Homer and Bart, as they sit on the couch, cheering as they watch a TV show about buildings being destroyed. Lisa complaines because it's not supper time yet and she's hungry, and Homer reveals that he and Bart have that covered, pulling up a sofa cushion to reveal some melted candy and crushed cookies. Her horror at the thought of eating melted candy and crushed cookies makes her change her mind and not give up without solving the case of her seemingly-dwindling intellect.

The thing is, I don't mind if candy is melted or if cookies are crushed. To me, they're still pretty much the same.

Moreover -- it never even occurred to me, before I saw that episode of "The Simpsons," that someone could be horrified by the thought of eating melted candy or crushed cookies. But Lisa was horrified by it, and apparently the makers of the show assumed that some or most of their viewers would be similarly horrified.

So. For a long time, I was somewhat horrified by the thought of other people being horrified by me because they saw me eating melted candy or a crushed cookie. But now I'm coming out and telling you, telling the world, that that's exactly who I am. As a matter of fact, I'm having a piece of a crushed cookie right now, and it's delicious! (It's a piece of a chocolate-chip-and-M&M cookie from Bob Evans. They crush it.) (Figuratively. What I'm saying is that they make a very good chocolate-chip-and-M&M cookie.)

If you can't be friends with me or look me in the eye ever again, well, that's that. That's how it is. And I might not never have noticed about you not looking me in the eye anyway, because I'm autistic and I make eye contact much less frequently than most people do.

PS: I rarely find crumbs of food under my sofa cushions and when I do I don't eat them. And if you do things like that, I judge you, am horrified by you and shun you. Not really, but ewwwwww.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Ray Donovan"

"Ray Donovan" is a series on Showtime, about a fixer in LA who grew up in Boston, and his family and associates. The show is a wicked pissah.

Okay, first and foremost, my impression of Paula Malcomson as Abby "Abs" Donovan, wife of tough guy fixer Ray, mother of Bridget and Conor, in every episode of "Ray Donovan" that she's been in. Ms Malcomson was terrific in all 36 episodes of "Deadwood" a while back, she's been terrific in a lot of other stuff and she's been terrific in all 39 of the 48 episodes of "Ray Donovan" that she's been in

Okay, okay, so here's my impression of Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan:

"Yer scarin' me, Ray."

Thank you, thank you! If you'd seen it in person you would have liked in even better, if you can imagine such a thing, because I imitate the voice pretty well, and when I do the impression I'm looking almost straight up.

But the other thing I have to say about the show is almost as important as the brilliance of that impression, if you can imagine such a thing: Conor could be headed toward a whole lot of trouble. Everybody's been really concerned about Bridget, who ran away from home -- but not far, and she came to the house for dinner recently -- and just turned 18 and is still in a relationship with her former schoolteacher Greg, whose hands Ray threatened to cut off if he didn't leave her alone when he first caught them together, but now Ray has changed a bit, and when Abs tells him that she just saw the two of them fucking in his minivan on the street right outside their house, instead of leaving right away to go cut off Greg's hands, he says that Bridget is 18 now and that if they interfere too much between her and Greg they'll just push her farther away; and Abs just found out she has breast cancer and the doctor wants to remove both of her breasts; And Ray's job constantly brings him in contact with very bad people and very scary things; and Ray's dad Mickey, a career criminal, is, even in his 70's and after having spent decades in prison, every bit as criminal and lacking in sound judgment as he ever was, which constantly causes the whole family a lot of grief up to and including Terry getting shot (but not killed) just because he was in the way when some gangsters came to kill Mickey, and then Ray getting shot (but not killed) when he and Avi went to kill the gangsters because they knew the gangsters wouldn't stop coming after Mickey and everyone close to him (for instance, they blew up Darryl's car), and now other gangsters related to the same situation created by Mickey have sent a gunman into the Donovan house, and Abby shot the gunman as Ray grappled with him, and now the whole family is in a hotel except for Bunchy and his wife, who just went into labor, so they headed to a hospital; and Ray's mentor and father-figure Ezra recently died, after having gone through a temporary stage of dementia brought on by a brain tumor; and before Ray went through the above-mentioned slight change, his inability to confront his own emotions had led to some nasty conflicts with his brothers, Terry, Bunchy and Darryl, and with employees, Avi and Lena, as well as severely alienating his wife and daughter (He seems much closer to everybody now: for example, when Bridget came over to dinner, when they all sat down at the dinner table, Ray said to Abs and Bridget and Conor and Darryl and Terry, "I love all of you so much," and everyone seemed astounded that he actually said it, except Darryl, who grew up in another family, and replied, "We love you too, Ray."); and Terry has a severe case of Parkinson's which began years ago when he was a professional boxer and Mickey let him fight too long before retiring; and Ray shot the priest who had sexually abused him as a child (leading to that very unhealthy state of bottled-up emotions, which, after having changed somewhat, he is now expressing much more openly), shot him right in front of Bunchy (whom the priest had also molested, causing Bunchy a lot of long-term emotional problems) and Terry (whom the priest had tried to molest, but Terry broke his hand) and Darryl; and Ray's sister Bridget (his daughter is named after her) committed suicide as a teenager for reasons which still haven't been explained to the viewer --

-- and a whole lot of other stuff too, so the point I'm getting at is that I'm afraid that in the midst of all of this extreme melodrama, people may be neglecting Conor, who I think is about 16 years old, and failing to realize that he seems to be very stupid and terribly devoid of good judgment about things like career plans. He constantly misunderstands very simple things that others say. He's not doing at all well at school. He says he wants to be "a gangster" like his father. (I debated whether or nor to put quotation marks around "a gangster.") A couple of years ago Conor severely beat another boy at school. I'm worried that it may be just a matter of time before he does something like that again, or something worse.

And, as I say, with all of the other melodramatic things happening, his family may be failing to notice that Conor is in trouble. That's why I'm worried.

In conclusion, France is a land of many contrasts.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Friendship

For a while, one of my favorite FB friends was a devout Catholic. We haven't seen much of one another lately because the group where we met went through some changes, causing both of us to quit.

He was sometimes suspected by fellow believers of being an atheist. This reminded me of how some of my fellow atheists have insisted that I was a believer. The truth is simply that we both stood out a bit from some groups which surrounded us: he made no effort whatsoever to convince anyone that his religious faith was rational; and I felt no need to go out of my way to insult every religious believer I met, just because he or she believed. I think those very same things, which caused some people to suspect us of being phonies, may be the 2 main reasons why we got along.

Lately, another FB friend of mine, a Republican, has made a series of very intelligent, eloquent defenses of Black Lives Matter, very critical of many of his Republican friends for refusing to see that "black lives matter" means "black lives matter TOO" and not something along the lines of "white lives don't matter."

That Catholic, that Republican and I have not the slightest inclination to let peer pressure tell us who we can and can't be friends with.

I learned a long time ago not to discuss certain things with certain friends. Maybe that's part of the reason I have friends like these who completely disagree with me about some major issues. They really, really don't want to read some of my blog posts, and I really, really don't want to hear what they say in some of theirs.

And so we don't. Genius!

Theology

Seen in an Internet meme:

"God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don't think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God." ― John Shelby Spong

God is just more thing people have created, and the main purpose of theology going back hundreds of years at least, and probably thousands of years into the past, has been to keep people confused about that very thing, to insulate them from that uncomfortable insight. A few years' worth of contact with New Atheists has left me much more sympathetic with people who just wish to be left in peace to continue to go to their churches, mosques, synagogues and other temples, but I still have just about no patience at all with theologians. Go ahead and worship God if you want to, just don't try to tell me that it makes sense to do so. (And let's not forget those who actually don't believe in God anymore, but still attend religious services for other reasons: for the music and art, or because their friends and family are there, or what have you. Our society's discussions about religion are not nearly open enough yet for us to have any idea how many people might be in this category)

I don't want to pick on most people any more for going about their religious habits and rituals, because it's just mean. The main reason people believe in God or gods is because it is comforting to do so. Subjecting the idea of God to real, honest scrutiny, and seeing that it just doesn't make sense, can be very painful. It certainly has been very painful to me. And if the leading alternative to belief, for the rank and file believers, is something no better than New Atheism, then in some cases it may be better, kinder, just to leave the rank and file alone.

Moving from the rank and file believers to the theologians, the official and unofficial representatives of the world's religions and those who rebel against those representatives, but have in common with them that they spend their entire careers studying and describing an omnipotent Being or beings which don't exist, which means that they're very free to just make stuff up as they go -- many of them, perhaps most, can be placed in one of two camps: firstly, there are those who also believe, and who use their studies to keep themselves blissfully confused as they keep their flocks confused; and secondly, there are those who do not believe, perhaps have never believed, but who see what a glorious scam it can be to exploit beliefs which are so widespread, beliefs which are at one and the same time so powerful and so fragile. In the first case you've got the blind leading the blind; and in the second case you've got shepherds more interested in shearing their sheep than in protecting them. Neither case is good.

And besides their congregations, those who seek out what they have to offer, there is the question of how much they will continue to interfere with those of us who aren't buying what they're selling. We pay lip service in the US to the concept of separation of church and state, but we're far from actually achieving that separation. One thing which is even farther from being achieved is the separation of church and academia, which leads to non-fact-based approaches to biology and climatology and history and every other field of inquiry.

Well. Here we are again where we've already been so often. The insistence on fact-based approaches to biology and climatology is gaining public support because it's becoming more and more obvious that we're going to need such approaches in order to survive as a species. When it comes to disciplines such as history, the interference of theology is much less widely understood, and therefore much more ingrained and tenacious. Two or three centuries ago, theologians absolutely controlled almost all of the universities in "Western civilisation." Since then, science has done a somewhat better job of freeing itself from that domination than have history and philosophy. Indeed, there is still a lot of crossover between theology on the one hand, and history and philosophy on the other. This has led some New Atheists to throw out the babies of history and philosophy along with the theological bathwater in which they sometimes swim, which in turn has led to a lot of New Atheist stupidity. See posts labeled new atheists in this blog. Religion doesn't poison everything, it hasn't been free of benefits, but it has crunked up a lot of things as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

On The Phrase "Incertae Sedis"

For years, I have been familiar with the phrase "incertae sedis." Actually, I've been familiar with the phrase "fragmenta incertae sedis," or sometimes "incertae sedis fragmenta." (Rules about word order are much more flexible for Latin than for English.) It means, roughly, "fragments of uncertain position," and as I've seen the phrase used, it refers to fragments of Greek or Latin, about which an editor is not entirely certain how to categorize them.

For example, in the 1990 Oxford Classics edition of Hesiod by Solmsen, Merkelbach and West, pp 213-219 contain fragmenta incerta sedis, fragments, in this case all in the form of passages from other ancient authors, which may or may not contain material originally written by Hesiod.

But the reason I'm writing this post is because I just found out today that the phrase "incertae sedis" in used in taxonomy to indicate that it is uncertain where exactly an organism stands in relation to other organisms. For example, the California condor used to be placed incertae sedis within the class Aves (birds), before the order Cathartiformes was recognized, which now includes that condor.

Well, the fact that "incertae sedis" is used in taxonomy is part of the reason I'm writing this. Another part is that I get the strong impression that many taxonomists do not know that the phrase has also been used for a very time in Classical studies. I'm not upset with taxonomists for not knowing this, no more than I'm upset because many or most Classicists may be unaware of how the phrase is used in taxonomy. I just find it interesting that the phrase exists in frequent use in these two separate fields, and I wonder about the phrase's history, and in what other fields it may have been used, or may continue to be used.

One thing which does upset me is knowing that some people find such subjects so intensely boring that 5 words' worth of posts like this causes them actual physical pain. I don't want to hurt anyone. I regret having rattled on and on to family and friends about such things for years and years before realizing how boring I was. I want to make other people see the fascination in such linguistic things, and it upsets me that I don't know how to make them interested, how to bridge that gap between them being so bored that it physically hurts, to where I and a few other people are, so fascinated by the very same subjects that my toes are curling with pleasure as I write this and wonder about the history of the phrase "incertae sedis."

(By the way, I also found out that the term "taxonomy" is used in other fields besides biology!)