Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Liberations of Age

I take walks for exercise, and have become fond of listening to podcasts. I downloaded the free samples from the Great Courses and have my eye on a few of the longer courses. I listen to basketball and football analysis, and sometimes general sports shows.  This is always humorous, as I don't have TV and never watch games. Nor can I bear to listen to games for extended periods of time on the radio. I see clips and highlights, and read the box scores and analysis afterward. I can speak knowledgeably nonetheless, mostly because others are knuckleheads and many things are obvious.

You're waiting for the liberations part, I know. I'm telling a Grandpa Simpson story.  Happening more these days. 

However, I have never been able to keep up with actual knowledgeable people, such as my second son, because of the lack of uh, seeing any games. It's a bit of a limitation. Because of podcasts and long walks in semi-retirement, however, I now get lots more analysis and am even better. Because thinking statistically is second nature, I now know more than an even greater percentage of fans. And I still couldn't tell most players apart in a lineup. Skill is fun, and I am enjoying going into the playoffs with some reasonable idea what to look for. Er, listen for. Ummm, imagine when I am reading box scores and looking at 10 second highlights while the game is in progress. You get the idea.

Where was I?

It adds to the pleasure. For those who like this sort of thing, I recommend Zach Lowe and Doug Gottlieb for basketball; Bill Barnwell and John Middlekauff (sorta) for football; The Ringer is best and worst for general sports, choose carefully. I downloaded a podcast by Adrian Wojnarowski, a knowledgeable person and an inside scoop sort of reporter.  Should be fun. Oh, and he's interviewing coach Dwayne Casey of the Raptors, a smart guy. I shall add to my store of knowledge. 

He starts off asking Casey about living in Canada, which doesn't have school shootings because of gun control, and what does he tell his kids...what does he think about what's happening in the US...

Whatever basketball knowledge they may have is not worth it to me.  I can turn it off. I listen for my pleasure, and I just don't have to. Ahh. I have always been free to turn it off, and have done so most of my life.  Yet it's easier every year. It's not just that Woj is wrong, not having done the simple arithmetic of noticing that Canada has about 10% the population of the US, nor that he is arrogant, believing that such an important topic means that now more than ever sports people need to share their wisdom with us. He's being an ass, and however much he might teach me about basketball - even if he were the bestest of the best - I don't have to listen.

Easier every year.

Bruno Sammartino

...has died. I don't recall ever seeing him wrestle on TV. On Saturday afternoons there was mostly Roller Derby, WWII movies, and Big Time wrestling. I caught a little of each, but was never a fan as some of my schoolmates were. My knowledge of him came mostly from posters like this:

I was impressed by Bobo Brazil, risking brain damage like that for the sake of show biz, but I didn't really understand then about what people had to put up with in order to put food on the table. I can't say I liked him - just impressed. The jobs they told us about at school all had happy people waving at children in them, and even in books where the family was poor and the lives of the parents were described as hard, there wasn't a lot of detail about what "hard" meant.  There was plenty of that around most of us, I suppose. It was a very American idea at the time that you were going to go on to adulthood and things would be better for you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shall and Will

Lose yourself in the discussion for a bit. First person, second person; British/American; prescriptive vs common usage.

Just don't ask lawyers and bureaucrats.  They really like the idea of "shall" as a command and imperative when they are writing up contracts. Only they think so.


Small sample size - though I was in LAX, Anchorage, and Sea-Tac for hours each - but I saw much more politically and socially aggressive clothing in Seattle than elsewhere.  Hats, T-shirts, and sweatshirts usually fall into benign categories: pro teams/colleges/geographic, or bars/ads, or brands.  Seattle was more in-your-face, with bumper-sticker style one-sentence politicising. Environmentalist, feminist, racial and native, and immigration.  I don't think many were for anything, they were against things, most especially people. Not what I would choose for travel, where one might quickly offend a seatmate or someone in line with you, but I suppose the joy of being a billboard for a captive audience in the larger airport compensates.


Looking at the genealogy of Jesus - Matthew's for example - one has to wonder if God has some preference for boldness and intelligence, even over moral qualities.  This shows up very clearly in the women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba*, but once you notice the pattern you can see it in the men as well. It's not just that sinners are in Jesus's ancestry, though many sermons have been preached on that topic.  The specific sins are rewarded. It's disquieting.

*Side note.  It was extremely unusual for women to be mentioned in genealogies at all in Jewish and other Mediterranean cultures. Matthew is making a very strong point about their importance here.

Monday, April 16, 2018

No Coins, Please*

I recall someone coming on afternoon TV - Merv Griffin or something - before 1970, advocating that we get rid of the penny. Everything could be rounded up or rounded down. People's objections were mostly irrational, believing that the pennies they had thrown into jugs, or obtained by children for returning soda bottles, or found on the street, would somehow no longer be honored, and society would collapse. For no reason that is not easily answered in fifteen seconds, we continue to have pennies. 

Whoever Merv was interviewing then was right. Since that time, inflation has made dimes worth just about what pennies were then.  So pennies, nickels, and dimes should be gone.  No one uses dollar or half-dollar coins, generally, so we have already demonstrated we could do without them.  Yes, the Brits have a coin worth a pound, and somehow they have adapted and we theoretically could as well, but somehow we haven't.

That leaves the quarter.  We have logically eliminated the need to use the other coins. So,  is it worth still having coinage if there is only one type of coin? Maybe. But with machines reading dollar bills and parking meters accepting your credit card, I'm going to go out on a limb and say we no longer need coins.

*Kiddie Lit reference. Every children's book by this author recommended.


I apologise up front for linking to Twitchy, which is actually a great example of the "telling the selected truth and commenting deftly" phenomenon they are reporting to here. But I assume the actual Loretta Lynch tweet is accurate. She sure ain't standin' by her man here. So ignore the site's commentary on Lynch throwing Comey under the bus.

Who's lying? is the cry from the conservative sites. As we never know which incident is going to be the tipping point in the demise of the Republic I don't want to fault them for an essentially accurate question, but really, it's oversimplified and calculated to rile up the base.  They know better. At least, those conservatives who have read C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, The Screwtape Letters, and "The Inner Ring" know better. Comey and Lynch are survivors of the highest levels of bureaucracy, with skills honed over many years.  No one says things, because one can be quoted, pinned, destroyed.  Yet things are understood. So Comey met with Lynch many times, but never-did-he-ever disclose his suspicions, she says. Sure. She had no idea what he was thinking.  A complete surprise. You have to go to the second level to ferret out about lying as a precise term. She says he never said, he says he did say; the most likely explanation is that they both understood, allowing that both understood imperfectly, exactly what was up. It's not only dangerous, it's also sort of gauche to be direct.  It shows you don't understand the real rules, you aren't to be trusted, you might blow things up.

It's part of why Trump strikes stark fear into them.  He lies in a completely different manner, not by talking in code or demonstrating an elaborate Tea Ceremony, but by just blowing things out his ass, some of which turns out to be true and some not. (The usual answer is partly true, may or may not be technically true, but in complete disregard of Washington codespeak, which is unforgivable.  His comment about the riots in Sweden last year is a great example of this.)

So the who's lying? approach has no answer.  Both, almost definitely, but which one more?  Which one technically, which one in spirit? That is not necessarily ever going to be clear. The people who speak their language slowly lose the ability to translate it into the everyday categories the rest of us use.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Babylon Bee

Because I keep forgetting to go over, but then enjoy many articles when someone else links to it, I have put The Babylon Bee in my sidebar.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Among the words that have come to mean something else, there is karma. Originally a respectable, though wrong, religious concept from Hinduism, it has become in America a synonym for "revenge by people other than me, or by unknown forces." It is not an expression of some balance of the universe which plays out at a subtle level according to what you have contributed, but a mean-spirited declaration that "someone deserved to get punished and I am gleeful." Hiding behind an Eastern religion, which are known to be favored by really cool, gentle, and nonjudgmental people makes it all the sweeter. I wish no ill to others, because I am not an evil evangelical.  The universe itself has punished this person I dislike.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


After due consideration, I deleted my FB account.  Appropriately, as good salespeople who are always trying to take you in one more time, when you hit the final delete button, they bring you to the login page.

Just in case you changed your mind, y'know?

Monday, April 09, 2018


African-American Vernacular English, also known as Black English, is a dialect of American English, which is itself a dialect of English. There is a formal written English which none of us speaks; all of us speak a dialect. There is a standard American English that tends to be closer to the formal written version, but is still not entirely the same. Even after becoming fluent in the formal written style, speakers tend to persist in speaking according to their original dialect.

The line is not always clear between what is an accent and what is a dialect. Some would claim that there are several Southern dialects, others that they are merely accents. Scottish English*, Pennsylvania Dutch English**, and Indian English***, and Newfoundland English are generally regarded as fully dialects, not merely accents, as they are different in structure. There are more.

AAVE is believed to have originally sprung from various British dialects - compare pirate talk "Whar ye' be goin?" - and subsequently influenced by Southern American speech, which was also a product of specific British dialects, usually western and Irish. The "be" verbs in AAVE are quite complicated and nuanced, actually.  While all non-majority dialects in all languages are looked down upon and regarded as "just wrong," we look down on AAVE more than the others.  This may be changing, as AAVE is influencing not only slang but the standard American spoken dialect through entertainment media. It is not only used ironically or for effect among the young.  It is just blending in. The difference between influencing the majority culture and having your culture appropriated is largely one of perspective.

There is little or no African in Black English. That myth keeps resurfacing, but there isn't any linguistic support for it.  It has also become more standardised since the middle of the last century. Slaves certainly did not have much contact with other African-Americans, slave or free, in other parts of the country. Their speech was related by history, but not always fully mutually intelligible. The great migrations north in the 1910's and 1930's and 40's created a more agreed-upon version in the cities, and radio, recordings, movies, and television spread this throughout the country.

We have looked down on it because of its associations, not because it is objectively worse or less standard than listening to a Newfie. It was spoken by people who were poor and had less education, so we came to regard it as more substandard than we might if it were simply a regional dialect. 

Every schoolchild should learn to write formally.  While formal writing can sometimes admit of spoken dialect for effect, as with Mark Twain, this is kept to a minimum.  In speech, it is advantageous to be able to use a bland middle-American speech at need. Even prestigious accents are not welcome in all situations. People who read a great deal find that their spoken and formal written expression bleed into each other more than those who do not. I would be at an extreme of that, as my writing relies a great deal on my spoken expression, while in speaking I use written forms more than most people do.  I am no longer sure whether this is ironic and for humorous effect or just the way I talk.  People who are familiar with both my communication styles say it is easy to hear my voice in my writing.

*Not to be confused with Scots Gaelic
**Not to be confused with Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of German,
***As in India, not Native Americans.

Why Commandments Are Good

From an article at First Things by Reuven Ziegler, discussing the observations of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Why Does Religion Need Commandments?

The fact that it is more likely that actions will influence emotions than the reverse explains why Halakhah devotes its primary attention to actions. If religion does not provide man with an objective framework of action containing specific divine norms, it will—at best—be vague and transient. At worst, it will lead to the most horrible excesses. (Italics mine.)
Neurology is discovering what religious persons seem to have already known.