Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Not Only But Also - III

"The Nazis had trained the ants to eat extremely slowly."

Real Network Names

CNN = AT&T network
NBC = Comcast
ABC = Disney

Spread it abroad, as it will increase clarity.

OCD - Golf Version

One's first thought - okay, my first thought - is to take this as evidence that golfers are insane for putting up with this. Golf may be among the most individual of sports, but this sort of pettifogging nonsense is a libertarian's nightmare.

On the other hand, golfers don't seem to mind it, and even embrace the precision required. The sport does have fewer scandals compared to...well, anything, really, and that may not be accidental. When you look at it a certain way, professional sports are federalism in action.  Each sport can have whatever rules it wants, and enforce them as strictly or loosely as it pleases. As many athletic attributes transfer from one sport to another, some athletes have a degree of choice what they want to put up with.

Freedom also includes the freedom to put up with excessive and unfair discipline.

Sad Distinction

"I am an advocate for victims!"
No, you are an advocate for victimhood.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Not many people can make punctuation suggestive. Even when you know what's coming, it works.

Enes Kanter

I have given up the NBA as of last week.  It hurts, because I have enjoyed learning more these last few years, as pro basketball is a subject known extremely well by my son Ben and I have enjoyed interacting with him about it. As three of his other subjects are baseball, movies, and TV, which I am not much interested in, it makes it hard to give up.  I have been a Celtics fan since the 1960s and this year was going to be interesting.  But really, this isn't getting into the category of plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand, now is it? It's a hobby, and I elect to embrace a pointless boycott.  Pointless because I don't buy shirts or tickets or cable packages. I unsubscribed from some free podcasts that I enjoyed.

Yet I still get news when it makes the news.  I didn't bother to follow it when coaches Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr made anti-Trump comments because I know what they are going to say and it's just banal, knee-jerk stuff.  I was not even surprised when LeBron James, that ferocious intellect and foreign-policy expert, explained that MIT grad and sports statistics guru Daryl Morey was uninformed, nor that LBJ is declining to comment further after being taken apart by pretty much everyone who doesn't make money off the NBA or isn't a fanboy of A) NBA players or B) black celebrities.

I was deeply pleased that Enes Kanter tweeted what he tweeted in response to LeBron. You should know that this was not reported by ESPN, Yahoo Sports, or Fox Sports.  Barstool Sports covered it. (If you want politically incorrect sports, they are the place to start.) USA Today covered it.  I don't know who else.

That Kanter is now a Celtic (not a Seljuk, a Celtic) is less a joy to me than a temptation to follow them after all.  I must avert my eyes.

#20 - Narragansett Bleg

I no longer need to ask where to find more of these as I have found others.  These will get you started, however.  The comments section turned interesting.  Light nostalgia can very quickly go to "Whatever happened to?" which often leads to tragic updates.  I published Narragansett videos in both 2008 and this one in June 2009.  They are making it again, and while it has a cult following, especially in RI and SE Mass, it's a pretty standard American lager.  Rather like how PBR had a resurgence.


I remembered another commercial, of a guy gleefully asking a woman questions about whether Narragansett Beer is good, growing in mirth until he is hugging himself with joy, then revealing that he is Fred Narragansett. (Note to non-New Englanders. Narragansett is a bay in RI. There was no Fred Narragansett.)

I linked to two old Narragansett Beer commercials over a year ago. If you watched Red Sox baseball in the 60's, these Nichols and May commercials were part of your culture.

There are two others here and here.

Here's where I beg for information. I remember several other Gansett commercials in the series, but I'm sure there were many more. (Punchlines only, for brevity)

1. "How do I know you're not a person in a kangaroo suit?"
"Well, how do I know you're not a kangaroo in a people suit?" (Nichols and May reused this old joke for a JAX beer commercial)

2. Papa Bear: "Yuchh, Goldilocks! Porridge and beer?"

3. "Birtinder! Birtinder! Ir yu meeking fun of me?"
"Nooo, I wis meeking fun of hir."

4. "So why did you go to all that trouble to make one bottle of beer?"
"I only made one pretzel."

5. (After an agonizing speech by a guy holding a steak over the grill so the meat doesn't get grill marks, his wife asks) "Well why don't you at least switch hands?"
"I'm using the other hand to toast the marshmallows."

6. There was one with a talking dog with the old punchline "You think I should have said Coolidge?"

More, please. I'm going to ask specifically over at Maggie's Farm, which I think will have the highest concentration of New Englanders.

Monday, October 14, 2019


Just to review, the Puritans were not obsessed with sex.  It is closer to the mark to say that moderns are obsessed with sex and therefore disapproving of anyone who has got any rules about it. The Puritans were in fact among (A commenter points out that Aquinas was on the scene for that earlier) the leaders in Western Christian thought that sex was not only for having children - which virtually every culture in the world has stressed. (Except for rich and powerful people, especially men. They get to regard sex as entertainment and expression of power.) Puritans believed it was also "to knit the heart of a husband to wife," a charming thought. One of the supposedly oppressive rules of the Puritans was that men should not get away with taking advantage of women. They were strict.  They did not believe that a man and woman who were not husband and wife should be alone together, because they thought the temptation was likely to be too much for one or both of them. We threw that rule out, and guess what?  It turns out it has a good deal of truth to it.  Just because adultery does not occur in 100%  of such situations, or even 30% does not mean it doesn't happen more than is good for both individuals and society as a whole.

Hawthorne had his own hatreds - we needn't share them.

Puritans were obsessed with death, with the final moment when whether they belonged to the elect or not would be revealed.  They were both horrified and fascinated by death. They were obsessed with time, with "improving the time" and not wasting it. They were not Docetists, falling into the oft-recurring heresy that material things were evil and spiritual ones were pure. Many Christian groups have leaned this way over the centuries, and the Puritans had some of that, but they did not foreswear the flesh, they merely believed it should be held under short rein.  They drank beer and enjoyed it.  They had folk dances, but not dances with pairs of men and women. They had sports and recreations, though they believed these should be limited.

(Screwtape:) In modern Christian writings, though I see much (indeed more than I like) about Mammon, I see few of the old warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time. All that, your patient would probably classify as ‘Puritanism’—and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life. CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (#10)
Stop blaming the Puritans.

Mother's Lament

An old English music hall song. Martin Carty, later of Steeleye Span, used to perform it with Ginger Baker, later of Cream.

First Contact

Before it was a Star Trek Movie, it was a SF novella. I think there were dozens of SF stories about being the first to encounter alien civilisations, and the problems that might ensue.

In 1400 AD, (and much earlier) Europeans were sailing up and down the Atlantic, and the Chinese were sailing back and forth across the Indian Ocean. A New World Population of up to 100,000,000, mostly from Mexico to Peru, had been isolated from all Eurasian diseases for at least 12,000 years, and in most cases, more like 18,000 years.  Making alcoholic beverages had first occurred in Asia thousands of years after the split, so the genes which discouraged overconsumption - things which made you have a headache or a hangover - had never developed in the Native American populations either.

It was a poised, unstable situation. With that much separation, and technology advancing enough that longer-distance sailing was possible, the massive death of tens of millions of New World natives was inevitable, and the defenses they had never developed against alcohol overcomsumption made their contact with Europeans unbalanced right out of the gate.

This did not make land-stealing, slavery, or violence inevitable.  But a great deal of misery was lying out there on the counter, just waiting to happen once first contact occurred.

The Strong Horse

Osama bin Laden said that people will follow the strong horse.  He wasn't wrong. That phrase came to my mind today reading the RealClearInvestigations piece Why China's Brightest Abroad Show Team Spirit For Beijing's Hardball. The American fantasy is that people in oppressed nations want more than anything to be free, or at least be freer. Though this is partly true, it ebbs and flows and is sometimes much less true than we expect.  It is true that in measuring public sentiment under dictators all data is suspect. People are afraid to be the first to stop clapping for Stalin.* In the current case of China, those that have received approval to study abroad are from the class of people benefiting most under the current regime, and are additionally vetted to boot. They are among the most likely to support the regime to begin with; then additional carrots and sticks are applied.

Nonetheless, I think that Richard Bernstein is reading the available data correctly, and that China is not populated entirely by huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Beginning about a third of the way down, he illustrates that many of the students are proud of China's power and growth, that it is expanding. There is no mention of them being proud of its government's actions, but the sense is that they just don't think about that much.
“The conviction in China is that we're on the right track,” Wang added. “The vibe is that the system we have is better than the West's.”
I don't think this is a Chinese characteristic, I think it is a human characteristic. A great deal of German and Japanese fervor leading to WWII was created out decades of teaching the idea that because we are becoming powerful, it shows our way is superior. I may be reading the idea back onto historical events, but I think of Romans, Ottomans, and Venetians saying much the same.  Even when everyone recognises the idea in the abstract that because tyrannies do exist, it cannot be true that the most powerful is the most moral, they seem to forget this when it comes to their own nation. It may be tied at some deep level to seeking secure resources. When your people are powerful, you are more likely to eat. Notice that nations on the make do not seem to get attacked, either, even if they are not yet especially powerful. One would think that a rising threat would attract violence, but they seem to attract diplomacy, alliances, agreements, or at worst only sanctions and counterthreats. Something in our nature says that's not a good bet to confront unless it is necessary.

Does this apply to us as well? Hmm, let's look at some friends of ours first, the British before answering that. England was not powerful in the Middle Ages. Spain, France, the Italian states, the Holy Roman Empire and eventually the Portuguese were more powerful. British patriotism has large regional elements now, but even English patriotism was more regional until...I will say 1500, just as a round number. Over the next hundred years England became more powerful, and a more full English patriotism grew.  It likely reached its height in late Victorian times or early Edwardian. It dipped a little about the time of the Boer War, perhaps not accidentally, and plummeted after WWI, even though Great Britain was among the victors. A sort of anti-patriotism became fashionable in the 1920s and 30s. Among its elites it still is, despite their having been proved wrong repeatedly over the last hundred years.

I don't think it is easy to measure the patriotism within one's own society when it is this diverse and the target is moving. There have been intentional attempts to redefine patriotism, which I have thought pernicious, but acknowledge the door doesn't have to be left open for that when the common wisdom is so oversimplified that it can easily be kicked in.  We think we know what "patriotism" means intuitively, but it has grown vaguer over the years until it became more of a glittering compliment word - at which point it is only natural that it will become a target for mockery.  Yet for all that, I think there would be general agreement that the 1950s were a high point of patriotism, which started receding in the late 1960s.

The standard explanation is that some were becoming disillusioned because of Vietnam, and we began to question whether we were actually doing good in the world or were all that noral and correct. What if that's not true?  The standard explanation is also that it was the young who were opposed to Vietnam, but that isn't entirely so.  Support for the war eroded among older Americans first, especially around 1968, while the war in general was supported by a majority of the young.  Those who had seen a victorious war, followed by an inconclusive one in Korea, were less enthused about a dithering, uncertain America doing much off anything abroad anymore. We may have the cart and horse reversed.  Had we been an aggressive country on the make, patriotism might have sustained longer.  Whether that sort of patriotism would be a good thing for us or the rest of the world is a separate question. While acknowledging it's all contradictory and difficult, I am going to come down in favor of the idea that indecisive losing sapped our patriotism more than more intellectual and reasoned positions about the place of America in the world.  I think the latter was only partly true, and much of it was retrofitted onto a more basic response.

*This is why the success of large "peaceful" protests are not a full argument that civil disobedience works. Gandhi's success was predicated on there being a half a billion people behind him who were not always nonviolent, and on their dealing with a nation with enough moral code to be shamed. I have never been able to track down the quote, so it may be apocryphal, but Ho Chi Minh is reported to have said that if India had been a French colony, Minister Gandhi would long since have gone to another reward. The assembling of large crowds has the effect of everyone discovering exactly how much support there is for a cause. Even if everyone just goes home, that information is now out on the table.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Columbus Day

I am going to celebrate tomorrow by getting lost, looking for spices.

A.A. Milne Was Prescient About 21st C Pronouns

When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said----"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Warren Revisited.

Adapted from the Washington Post Article:
About 90 minutes into Thursday’s forum on LGBTQ issues in Los Angeles, a gay rights leader posed a question to Sen. Elizabeth Warren President Donald Trump: How would she respond if a voter approached her him and said, “I’m old-fashioned, and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman?” Warren (D-Mass.) Trump (R-Queens) responded with a theatrical seriousness. “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy gal who said that,” she deadpanned, pausing a beat for the audience to catch the joke. Then she added, “And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman — I’m cool with that.’ ” She finished with a zinger: “ ‘Assuming you can find one.’ ”
If you think that actually does sound like Trump, remember that this was not a person who had attacked Warren, but someone who had come up and asked a polite question.


I got tired of seeing the Clyde Joy post at the top of my page. It still weirds me out that I could enter a publishing date for it of October 14, but it pops up on October 9 anyway, and stays on top no matter what I subsequently publish. The obvious solution of changing the publishing date didn't occur to me until this morning.

Friday, October 11, 2019


The website is "Make It," and has the unfortunate tone of assuming that making money as the #1 goal of all of us.  I did, however, like this particular article about focus as the most important quality going forward. We have come through an age where intelligence may have been the most important attribute for getting ahead, wherever "ahead" is, though a dozen other qualities might work as well at an individual level. I have speculated that adaptability, flexibility, is the coming thing, and I do still think that is on the rise. But the idea that focus will be the new first among equals was instantly convincing to me. Not only will it work at an individual level, but techniques to increase focus - or reduce distractability - in work groups seemed useful as well. The nurses wearing orange vests at particular periods of their shift to signal that this was a time they could not be interrupted? That made immediate sense to me. The times I would use an orange vest in my own job would be uncommon. I might find that necessary only for an hour every other day. Yet for those times, not being interrupted would indeed valuable. The other data about interruptions was interesting as well.

The New Yorker Is Perfect

The New Yorker offers a decently interesting article about the new internet craze of things being "cursed." Loved it at first. Five paragraphs about the actual topic, headed by a simply amazing picture of many badgers on someone's back patio. (Really, I should forgive them everything because of that amazing picture.) It is a good thing, because it is by a (presumable) internet native who has a better feel for what's really happening than an old guy like me. Then, oh dear! Two paragraphs of liberal-arts major filler to get your paper over 1,000 words. Not bad for what it is, but a serious deterioration, quickly. Then two paragraphs of liberal pieties, with especial emphasis on how terrible Trump has always been, as all of us here know. One reads this and goes sentence-by-sentence.

Huh?...Double huh?...No they aren't; and "basic" was passed decades ago, you he hasn't...Huh? (again), that's unrelated...I don't even want to hear how you are connecting these two ideas...perversely, you are correct here. YOUR simulation of reality is breaking down, yet somehow you think that is the fault of the actual reality where the rest of us live...(New Paragraph) Not obvious to anyone looking at data, thanks...Yes, that's true, (heh), they haven't...the children are not in danger and should go do something productive...Yes, it IS hard to take in all at once the overwhelming evidence that you are about 80% wrong in everything you believe about politics and culture, I will grant that. But we'll be patient if you just show some progress, Miss...and then a few sentences of airy, abstract philosophising, tied to no actual philosophy, but the sort of thing I used to say after having a couple of glasses of wine and staring into a candle at college parties, to the distress of my girlfriend who began to wonder if she really thought this was the best use of the word fiancee.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Lizzie Warren with a tax
Gave your income forty whacks.
When she saw you try to run
Gave your spouses forty-one.

Political Parties

From George Washington's Farewell Address:
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Even as Washington was headed to his first, unanimous election as president, others began jockeying, manipulating, and forming parties. Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and Madison - all participated, and there was already a lot of fake news, vile insult, and dirty play.

I am listening to another history podcast American Elections: Wicked Game which will run weekly until the 2020 election, covering each of the 58 campaigns in order. I have listened to the first two, about Washington in 1789 and 1792, and am liking the series. Recommended.

Hobbits In Kentucky - #22

From the early days of the blog, December 2007, and reprinted twice here, just because I love it.


Not a joke or a misprint. Bumbling around doing research for the Beowulf post, I happened across an essay by Guy Davenport, literature prof in KY who studied under Tolkien at Merton College, Oxford. Back in the US, he became friends with Alan Barnett, who he later learned had been a student at Oxford with Tolkien. Barnett related how fascinated JRRT had been to hear about the country folk of Kentucky, growing tobacco and having such English country names as Burrowes, Barefoot, Proudfoot, and Baggins. Two versions of the same story, each with information the other lacks, are here (scroll down) and here. Barnett, BTW, had not heard that his friend Tolkien had later become a novelist and knew nothing of The Lord Of The Rings.

Davenport wrote a NYT piece on it in 1979, but the Times archive only goes back to 1981.

Commentary. The rural West Midlands area that Tolkien patterned the Shire after had become more urban by the time of Tolkien's writing, and the idea of something even remotely like it being preserved in America might well have charmed him. To a European classicist, rural America had much the same remoteness that Professor T was trying to capture about the Shire. Americans would immediately associate Kentucky with Appalachia, which was settled by rambunctious Scots-Irish and English Borderers, and discount the idea of any connection. But Tolkien may not have had that association, and in this case it is not accurate anyway. That section of KY between Frankfort and Louisville was actually settled by a higher percentage of West Midlanders, more like Ohio was.

I looked up all those Hobbit-names, comparing that part of KY with the rest of KY, and with other places across the US. There weren't any Bagginses,* Gamgees, or Bracegirdles, but there were Tookes, Grubbs, Barefoots and Proudfoots, Burrowes, and Pippins. There were no Butterburs, but there were Butterbaughs. BOOderbaw my son pronounced immediately after I'd told him. "We had a Butterbaugh in my class (at Asbury College in Kentucky)." There was indeed a greater concentration of all these names around Shelbyville and Louisville. These names occurred elsewhere in the country, but were much less common - only a few in huge California, New York, and Texas, for example.

The attempts to show a similar speech pattern I find less convincing. Rural archaic constructions all sound very similar at first go until you take them apart. That archaic constructions persisted at all, however, would have been known to Tolkien but still likely to intrigue him.

One commenter on a Tolkien site suggested that examining the census records for 1910 - 1930 for that area might be more revealing than a current phone listing. Likely true, but I'm not likely to do it myself.

Update: There is a Cooter Baggins who graduated from a HS in Indiana, right across the river from that part of KY. Hmm.

*There is a Bilbo Baggins in Louisville, but I assumed that was a taken name, not a christened name.

Clyde Joy, Willie Mae, and Goodnight Homes

Originally published April 2011. Reposted 2019, #21 on my all-time most-visited list, with over 3000 hits. The many hits over the years must come from NH people looking up Clyde Joy for nostalgic reasons.

I was going to launch into my post about anosognosia, apophatic and cataphatic theology, and all belief as epiphenomenon, but got distracted into country music in New Hampshire instead. Really. That is an absolutely true statement.

These rabbit trails result from living somewhat near the place one grew up. I was on the Daniel Webster Highway North tonight, driving by the place I had my first job out of college.

I graduated in the recession of '75, wanted to return to NH, and was willing to take any job I could get. Apparently people who enter the job market during recessions have some tendency to never recover from that, always selling themselves short and never making as much at graduates in other years. That's true in my case, but also a good thing. I was terribly arrogant and needed to be brought down a few - no, several - pegs. I counted myself lucky to get a part-time job at the Goodnight Motel in Hooksett at $3/hr. The owner's name really was Goodnight - first Fred, and then his son Gary - and their main business was selling mobile homes on the other side of the highway. Marlette mobile homes, I'll have you know. The Cadillac of mobile homes. And they were moving into Yankee Homes (very stylish) and doublewides, 24' x 36'.

Hooksett and the DW Hwy had just started to grow then. A K-Mart and a McDonald's had come in down the road, and the town fathers (or more likely, the town mothers) were trying to squeeze the Sky Ray Drive-In out of showing R-rated movies, which were sorta visible driving by. And not artistic R-rated movies, you understand, but things like Can I Do It Till I Need Glasses Tangentially, I learned in searching for this image that it was Robin Williams's first movie.

But at the moment, Hooksett was still pretty much what it had been in my childhood: rural, goofy, poor, uncool. It was definitely culture shock for this North End boy to be working at the no-tell motel attached to the trailer park and mobile home sales lot on the way out of town - way out of town - on old Rte 28, headed toward unimaginably backward places like Suncook and Pittsfield. These were not places where anyone you knew lived, but places you drove through on the way to the Lakes Region for vacation.

So I was a clerk at the Goodnight Motel, renting rooms at $12.60 a night (the waterbed room was $17.85) and collecting rents from the trailer park. Goodnight's was apparently where you rented a room for prom night - I hadn't known that, to show you how naive I was, even though my main girlfriend junior year and my junior prom date (different people) were from Hooksett. Had I known, that second girl...

Ah, another rabbit trail. You are not going to hear that story.

But by 1975 in NH, mobile home sales were on their way down, and chain hotels were pushing out those uh, charming little places along the secondary highways. Fred Goodnight had moved away to Costa Rica*, and his son Gary was trying to keep the various businesses afloat. My knowledge of Goodnight Homes up until that point was that they sponsored the country music show on WMUR every week, with Clyde Joy and Willie Mae. (If you are from NH, I really recommend this link, BTW.) Fred was originally from Georgia, so maybe he liked the music, or maybe he liked Clyde, or maybe he just thought it was good advertising to get on local TV. Whatever, Clyde would sing a song to the tune of "Goodnight Irene" every week that plugged Goodnight Homes.

We didn't call it country music then, but Western, or Country & Western, and it was a cowboy thing, not a southern thing. Rural New England had plenty of fans of fiddle music, and actual folk music like Jimmie Rodgers, not any of this new-fangled Pete Seeger stuff. They did accept the whole Hootenanny and Kingston Trio idea even though that wasn't quite the same, because they could at least find the records or see it on TV. But until then, it was Clyde Joy and Willie Mae.

Those of us in Manchester's north end found this humiliating, interfering with our aspirations to be an intellectual, urbane place like Boston or Newport, RI. Maine and Vermont were considered even more backward than us then, and represented what we were trying to escape from. WMUR was the local station, and embarrassing enough in itself, but this Circle 9 Ranch and cowboy hat stuff - in New Hampshire - was beyond the pale. It lasted along time, though.

Ironically, I had become a bluegrass and modern country fan by 1975, via Stephen Stills, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and John Fogerty, but Clyde and Willie Mae were the old, uncool country music - and they were off the air by then anyway.

And now here I was working for these guys. I didn't tell many people. The main office had a little apartment upstairs, where Fred stayed when he was in town, which was hardly ever. The magazine rack had what we called "naturist" magazines then - photojournals of what life was like at nudist camps, an excuse to show naked people. But it was seedy, not like the full-color girlie magazine Playboy, which was quite open about the idea that they were showing pretty girls with little or no clothing. Naturist magazines - I think these were called "Sundial," or "Sunrise," or something -
similar to this, anyway - were more coy, like they were reporting on news from nudist camps, or discussions about the future of nudism or whatever.

I was warned about Willie Mae calling. She was supposedly always looking for money from Fred, because he owed her, and there was a wink, wink, nod, nod that there was something else to the story. I absolutely believed that then, but now I'm pretty sure whatever story is true is forever lost. I got a call only once, out of the blue and quite angry "I want to speak to Fred!" I had never seen Fred, no one had told me he was expected, and I quite honestly said I had no idea where he was. The woman told me I was lying, she knew he was in town, and I had better tell him that Willie Mae had called. Well, okay then.

Fred showed up that evening, breezed through the entrance, introduced himself, told a few stories and treated me like I was his great pal from years gone by. So Willie Mae had heard something, more than even Fred's son had heard. I told him she had called, and he waved it away, laughing with one of those laughs that "we men knew what those things were all about." I didn't actually, but I laughed knowingly anyway. It seemed the wisest move, as this guy was probably still the owner and my boss. I didn't dare ask him the story about the bullet-hole in the office ceiling, which apparently dated from his time, but I kept looking at it, trying to subtly remind him of more interesting times. He didn't bite. He went upstairs, turned on the TV, and told me not to set the alarms when I left.

*Something to do with extradition, I heard. I was instructed never to tell anyone when Fred was back in the US.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Journalists on Adderall

Supremely confident but convinced everyone is against them. Yeah, that would explain a lot, wouldn't it?  Add in young, and widely but superficially knowledgeable and we may have it understood almost completely.

The Meritocracy Trap

John Staddon, professor emeritus at Duke, reviews The Meritocracy Trap over at Quillette. It's a good review, and if you want to get into a discussion about the book or the topic I recommend you read it, so you don't talk yourself out on a limb.  But if you just want to know the gist of it, I can simplify: First, David Markovitz, author of The Meritocracy Trap, mostly means academic credentialing when he uses the term meritocracy. Most of us mean something else by the term.  Insofar as academic credentialling is a poor substitute for meritocracy, Markovitz is correct - it does screw the middle-class in order to give advantages to an elite class attempting to be hereditary.  We agree.  We just think you don't know what a real meritocracy is, perhaps from being at Yale all these years.

Secondly, Markovitz thinks the standardised testing used to get children into colleges, especially elite colleges, can be gamed, and that rich people know how to do this. This is just not true. Instruction can improve scores, but remember the following number: Total SAT will go up 50-100 points from junior to senior year anyway, because of maturing brains being able to think more abstractly, see more analogies, and not get distracted by buzzwords and irrelevancies. Beyond that, instruction and supposedly gaming the system don't add much. If you want I can go into that in more detail.

Markovitz doesn't believe in natural ability and thinks it's all gaming the system.  He's just wrong. Summary Over.

Related Topic: He is bothered that the fabled 1% somehow keep having more and more advantage every year, instead of the world leveling. But that is a natural and perhaps unavoidable consequence of a world with better communication that is more interconnected.  200 years ago, a LeBron James or a Beyonce or a JK Rowling or a Century 21 might be the best in town at what they do, and even start to get a reputation in the surrounding towns, then maybe statewide. They could make a living writing, entertaining, selling. Yet in the next state, a person less talented might get just as famous and also make a living, because the extra 10% advantage than the true expert has would just be wasted. No one is going to take a daily horse-and-buggy ride of 100 miles to read a 10% better newspaper columnist.

Yet in an interconnected world - where one can be famous not only in Akron but in Ohio; not only Ohio but in America; not only America but the English-speaking world; not only the English-speaking world but the whole planet - that 10% advantage will be parlayed into fabulous wealth. Fairly automatically.  Better investors don't have to screw other almost-as-good-investors to dominate.  It will just happen.  Now, because the stakes are so high, and the margins of advantage among the very best are more like 1% instead of 10%, it is true that there is a great deal of angling, corruption, cheating, and criminality. That shuffles who is at the top.  But it doesn't change the fact that the top is going to be there, that someone is going to reap the benefits of that audience.

As we reach ever more markets, not only China but India, not only India but Africa, not only cities but towns, not only towns but villages, the 1% is going to make  even more. You can count on it. Not because they are cheating or screwing people over (some of them are, but it doesn't change things for us), but because their slight advantage can be expressed over greater population.

And if you are doing something new that actually creates wealth, then there's more to fight over, not less. Michael Jordan not only made money playing basketball, he and his people figured out that there might be money in sneakers with his name on them.  And there was. New money. He didn't take it from anyone (except, I suppose, his customers).

Early Grim

In going through the old posts I found that I had commented about PTSD in response to something written by Grim over at Blackfive in 2007, long before I started visiting his site. I didn't know about his site until Texan99 had commented here a few times, at which point I clicked through and found out what blog she wrote for.  That may have been around 2011.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Repressed Memories Are Back

An article about the new version of repressed memories, now called traumatic dissociation, was sent to me tonight. The author takes a while to get to the point, repeating the miserable effects the last time this idea came out in the 1980's and 90's, but I think it is definitely necessary for a new audience that doesn't know these details, and a good reminder to those of us who were there how extensive it all was. The author gets a strong point correct as well.  "Dissociation" can mean a hundred different things, and just because there is evidence for dissociation of some types in now way is the least evidence that others even exist.  It is a bait-and-switch (or perhaps a moving goalpost) argument. Just because the ocean exists and there are creatures in it does not mean the Kraken exists. The article quotes U Washington professor Elizabeth Loftus, the primary researcher and debunker in the field:
“The notion that traumatic events can be repressed and later recovered is the most pernicious bit of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry,” wrote Harvard psychologist Richard McNally in a letter to the Supreme Court when it was hearing a case that stemmed from recovered memories in 2005. “It has provided the theoretical basis for ‘recovered memory therapy’—the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era.”
The repressed memory horror, which sundered families and sent innocent people to prison, has been compared to the Salem Witch Trials.

Yet there are some stark differences between the events of 1692 and those of 1982-1992.
The Salem trials involved very few victims.
There were only a few other events in America that echoed them.
They were over very quickly.
Nonetheless people talk now much more about the Salem Witch Trials of 300 years ago than the national events of 30 years ago. If one wants to make a case for repressed memory, the fact that our society prefers to forget its own guilt is a better example than an episodes uncovered under hypnosis. Perpetrators forget, victims do not. Victims do get the events wrong, however, including who the perpetrator was. I redid a psychosocial history on a woman we had at the hospital 35 years ago. Her story of abuse then was different from her story of abuse now, though there were similarities as well.

I remain ashamed that I did not speak up enough when we went through this the first time. That there might be evil people doing horrible things to young women I believed, and fully grant now. I didn't know much of the science of memory, but I knew enough to be very suspicious of this. There were clinicians who knew more than I who believed in it, and I didn't believe I had the evidence to go against them.  Perhaps most importantly, my direct supervisor was a believer, and I, the least-credentialed person in the department was always in a precarious position with her - and she was diagnosably ill, which the powers-that-be refused to admit. Yet that is the limit of my excuses, and it is not enough.  I knew with more certainty that in the brief time we interacted with people in crisis, we did not have anywhere near enough information to be drawing conclusions and assisting in such drastic interventions.  I knew that many of the stories were simply impossible, yet people around me were believing them. I expressed quiet doubt to a few people.  I should have asked challenging questions instead.

One incident sticks in my mind.  A young woman was admitted to our acute service, suicidal and claiming she had recently learned in therapy that her father had molested her for many years when she was young. We knew her only a few days, yet in that time my supervisor offered to provide the setting and be a support if she wanted to confront her father about this in a family meeting. In fact, she encouraged it as a safe place to do this, because we would be with her afterward in case she felt suicidal again. Afterward, in this case meaning another 48 hours.  Ridiculous.

I said little then, but I have no fear now.  I don't mind getting fired over this if it comes up.  If it is going to be on the rise I am glad I hung around long enough so that I get a chance to shove it back down.

New Posts

As you can see, this blog time travels.  One post was slated to come out 10/10, another on 10/14, but they showed up now anyway. I suspect when a post is moved from an earlier date it can't go away and has to appear, regardless of when the publishing time is set.

Perhaps it is a sign that the world will definitely continue to exist for another week.

Monday, October 07, 2019

See Ourselves

“O, wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, An' foolish notion.” Robert Burns
I was listening to a podcast on the Crusaders.  Quite a good one, too, and seemed determined to remind us that motives are complex and sometimes contradictory, and alliance in wars can be enmity within the year. Today's bitterest friend is tomorrow's dearest enemy. Moslem historians regarded the entry of European Christians into their conflicts as rather secondary.  The main conflicts were Sunni vs Shia, and Seljuks vs Fatamids vs Byzantines - and even that was an oversimplification and changed over time. The popular historian being interviews was clearly not a Christian himself, but I thought he handled the varying degrees of piety and sincerity among the Crusaders even-handedly. He dropped in some soft signs of his modern political stance, but they were mild enough that I wondered if here setting up some liberal credibility before making a statement or too that might offend them.

He was referring to the final crusaders to the Baltic states in the late 14th and early 15th C, and how they were largely posers. The young nobles wanted some Crusading and adventuring on their resumes, both for secular and religious reputation. He contrasted this to the willingness of earlier crusaders to endure hardship and keep somewhat better focus on the main idea that the Crusades were to keep Jerusalem and surrounding areas open to pilgrims, because the Moslems had cut this off. Not that even the First Crusade kept their eye on that prize all that well, getting distracted into killing other people, especially Jews, on the way out. Still, the later Crusades were ever-less motivated by religious ideals.  And yet, he cautioned, even at the end there were young men who went on Crusade for more selfless motives.

I wished at this point he would at least acknowledge that the worst of them were at least willing to risk death in battle.  This was part of their bona fides of piety and devotion to Christ. And you, Charles, what have you risked?  How then do you call ME impious? That value is not ours, but one can see the point quite easily.

That irritation was quickly overwhelmed by his next comment, comparing those posers to modern alt-right mass murderers who have taken a fancy to wearing Crusader symbols.

Alt-right mass murderers?  Had I missed something?  I might have missed something, sure.  In the same way that the left has forgotten James Hodgkinson, it could be that there were some incidents that the conservative press buried now, never mentioning them in the same way that the legacy press buries stories as "unimportant" because they are "old news." I did think I might have kept hearing about them, because of working among liberals, and the overall cultural dominance of the traditional, liberal sources. But I couldn't guarantee that.  What to do to find out? I recalled Megan McArdle writing an essay debunking the claim that right-wing extremists had killed more Americans than Islamic extremists since 9-11, but many would call her a conservative writer.* Any search engine would quickly bring up lists that were either biased or could be called biased. But instead of trying to find an objective source. I decided to led bias work in my favor.

Do you remember the old joke about the chicken soup that a chicken had merely walked through at some point?  I decided that is what the Southern Poverty Law Center would be for me.  If any mass-murder had merely walked past something and alt-right group had also walked past in the preceding year, they were going to count that in their totals.  You see? SPLC does have a use after all! They operate on the boundary.  You can be sure they have the largest possible list, and there is no need to look further.

SPLC lists 43 people killed by perpetrators with ties to the alt-right, including incidents with 7, 9, 9, and 6 victims.  I reduced the list to 6 killed, all with only 1 or 2 killed in those incident.

Correct me if I'm wrong on this. Check my work. This list only goes through 2017.  The historian was English, and perhaps there is something in Europe the SPLC didn't bother with.  I have not bothered to drive this stake to the center of the earth. Yet I think I was ultimately generous to my opposition in this.  If someone said they were alt-right, I counted that, even if their manifesto sounded politically mixed to me.  Plus, many of them can't be assigned a side, because they are just clearly ill.  As I have noted before, paranoid and psychotic people pick up whatever is in the air around them.  If they hang out with rightists, they are likely to adopt right-wing delusions.  If they hang out with leftists, religious people, gangs, military, or whatever, their delusions will trend that way.

Still, I counted some even of those. There are interesting discussions that could be had whether there is a difference between a white separatist and a white supremacist. It may be that neo-nazis are more right wing than the original nazis who were a left-right mix. I ceded those points without discussion (maybe because I could see that the data was going my way even without it).  I didn't count incels as alt-right.  I didn't count people who just didn't like immigrants and blacks unless there was some scrap of data that identified them with the right, however slim.  For example, one was considered alt-right because he had commented many times on Ben Shapiro's site.  Pretty weak tea, if you ask me, but I let it go.

So the historian - like most historians these days - displays remarkable objectivity, sees many sides, and is an excellent example to us all of what it is like to be even-handed, curious, and slow to draw conclusions - except when it comes to his own politics, in which case he just resorts to the default of his tribe.

#24 - Arch Humor

There is a whole style of comic performance and writing that relies on snark, on archness. It is comic hipness. I won’t try to trace its history, but it includes Carlin more than Cosby, Newhart, or Pryor. You could sense it in Carson and Leno, but it is Letterman’s stock-in-trade. SNL seems to have retained the joys of silliness through its many incarnations, but the attitude of superiority has never been far below their surface. Al Franken breathed it. Monty Python, very little archness. There’s a touch in Steve Martin, and not so much as you’d think in Bill Murray or Will Smith. Very little in Robin Williams.

I must have liked it fairly well over the years – PJ O’Rourke has got plenty, Bryson moved increasingly in that direction. The tone is there in Dave Barry, in Garrison Keillor. But I find it quite tiring and irritating these days. That raising of the eyebrows and looking toward the audience with amusement at how stupid, how gauche, the particular object of ridicule is now provokes a desire to punch their slightly-lifted noses. Except if they can still laugh at themselves.

I have noted how much I value the ability to laugh at oneself as a measure of emotional health. I think some of that is in play here. Rick Reilly used to be able to laugh at himself, and was funny. Now he can’t and he sucks. Bill Simmons still can, for the time being. Barry laughs at himself easily; Keillor can laugh at his young self but less so at his adult self; O’Rourke can still skewer himself (though perhaps less…?), Bryson is a mixed bag on this and always has been. If you go back over the entries in the first paragraph, the pattern holds pretty strongly: those who can self-mock stay funny. Trudeau and Breathed started by being able to laugh at themselves, then lost this. Scott Adams’s pounding on the stupidity and meanness of management worked when Dilbert and Wally’s foibles were also a main focus. As that went, and they became only the hapless everyman observers of the lunacy, Dilbert became less funny.

Ben reads Chuck Klosterman and David Sedaris. I can tell they have this snarky humor - it may be the humor of the era, growing up slowly in the 70's, establishing dominance in the 90's. It is certainly the humor of the reader more than the viewer. I don't know if either of them have the ability to send themselves up, but I'm pretty sure that would be the dividing line whether I liked them.

Update 2011: Wow. I hadn't realised it had gotten this bad. I sense a Firesign Theater reunion right around the corner. So topical, so now!

Update 2019.  I had not included the late-night TV hosts in my original essay, but I think it applies to them as well.  I am not especially knowledgeable about the topic, but it is my impression that they started off being able to laugh at themselves but have become less able to over the years.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Post #23 and 23A

American Arrogance - Part I - Good comments.  This was the one that had all the hits, but I think the second part still goes with it well, and it just missed the cut for the Top 100 itself anyway.

American Arrogance - Part II.  Good discussion here, also.  December 2015

Daryl Morey and China.

Daryl Morey tweeted support for the Hong Kong protestors. The owner of the Houston Rockets disapproved and said they are about basketball, not politics. They don't want to offend anyone. Especially not a big market like China. which has a "special relationship" with Houston since Yao Ming. Nice little NBA business you've got there.  It would be a shame if anything happened to it. 

It will be interesting if Houston fans have diminished interest in the Rockets going forward.

Update: The NBA has weighed in that they don't want to be political about such things.  I recall, however, that it was perfectly okay for LeBron James to announce that no one would be going to the White House no matter who won the championship, and players and coaches have been saying anti-Trump things pretty regularly. They also let Enes Kanter be very political about Turkey (which he is courageous for doing, BTW).  I guess there just aren't enough potential fans to buy shirts in Turkey.


This was a new term to me, but based on this painting, I am willing to look deeper.

The site is here: Remodernism. Upon examination, it devotes a lot of energy to showing us how stupid and terrible Postmodern art is. Well, fine, but I already knew that. Give me more examples of what good Remodernism is, please. Still, that picture above has a nice haunting quality worth holding in memory. If any of you hear anything more about the movement, be sure to bring it here.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Mad Librarian

We should probably do this. Great idea.


Both plant and animal populations expand to the limit of the available resources.  Algae on a pond surface does not get smart partway through the summer and say "Hold on lads!  If we eat all the nutrients now we won't have enough for next month.  Let's stop reproducing for a few weeks and keep ourselves at a nice stable population.  We can gradually resume reproducing once we establish what the natural death rate is. That way we can go on forever." Squirrels have "learned" to put away acorns for later, but it is an instinctive response, not a reasoned one.  They don't say "This was a great year for acorns and we're all fat and able to reproduce, but let's be cautious.  There might not be so many acorns next year, and then our children will be hungry, or get killed by cars or other predators because they have to take increased risks to find food."

Human beings have done much the same until quite recently, and still do in some places.  Populations expand because they can. They often do not expand to the level where just about everyone is comfortable, then call a halt.  They expand to the maximum number that can survive and reproduce, even if just barely, given the available resources. That the human population has expanded hugely over the last two centuries is testament to great improved resources because of greatly improved technology. That hundreds of millions were hungry in Asia - and now Africa - is, paradoxically, a result of more resources, not fewer. It was not a distribution problem in the usual sense.  It was an ever-increasing supply of acorns leading to more squirrels, with most of the squirrels just barely getting by.

This is what makes the lifting of so many from abject poverty in the last seventy, especially the last thirty years so remarkable. We are now providing food and curing/preventing disease at a faster rate than the population is growing.

Ride On, King Jesus

Teenage groups singing gospel is a great forest to get lost in.  This was one of many.

Friday, October 04, 2019

#25 - Brittonic

I am into my top 25 and will repost more of them singly.  In this one, talent amateurs have a go at linguistics.  April 2017


I prefer to think Brythonic, just from the appearance and the romance of it, but that's a bad reason scientifically, so I'll stick with the more generally-accepted form Brittonic.  The Brittonic languages are a substrate of the English language which were largely overrun by Anglo-Saxon elements from the 6th C on. They are Celtic, and related to but not the same as the Goidelic languages that became what we currently call Celtic.  Their relation is farther back.

All this comes up because of Grim's interesting post about Anglish, a fun exercise in imagining an English more fully Germanic, uninfluenced by Norman French. I have written about this substrate before. In fact, the discussion of hydromyms, especially rivers, is one of my oldest posts. It belonged originally to a now-defunct blog I had before this one. If you like this sort of thing at all, check that link, which includes a further link to the interesting theories of Theo Venneman, who claims to have identified toponyms from Brittonic throughout Europe. There is a good deal of argument for how much Brittonic actually remians in English, and how much is stretching a point.

I forgot one piece.  I alluded to it but did not elaborate; that is the theory that the idiosyncratic us of do and did in English is originally a Brittonic bit.  Nice Germanic languages don't have this. Do you have any fish? Haben Sie keine Fische? There's nothing related to any "do" in that.  I didn't make... Ich machen nicht... again, there is no "did" in it. In fact, not only do Germanic languages not have this, none of the 6000 languages of the world have this - except Welsh and Cornish, suggesting that some relative of those languages was able to keep that oddity in their speech despite being overrun by Germanic tribes who didn't have that.  The theory is not universally accepted, but it's a good start.


Jacques Berthier is best known for his music that is sung at the Taize Community.

The singers are from the Shenandoah Music Camp in Virginia, a few miles north of Charlottesville. Some but not all of them come from traditions of non-instrumental music, so the instruction is entirely choral.

New American Record

Donovan Brazier


Son #3, John-Adrian, had snow today. Son #2 had 91 degrees.

Thursday, October 03, 2019


I am increasingly moved to profanity as the world grows crazier, in an evil, non-humorous way. This beggars belief. Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how was Dallas?


My wife said two days ago she is already tired of hearing about impeachment. She's got a solid point.

I trusted Andrew McCarthy to be cautious to the point of timidity on the Mueller Report and other intelligence agency scandals. He is far removed from being a fire-eater or one who jumps to conclusions.  Therefore, I take this summary of what is really happening about impeachment quite seriously. Short version:  It's all smoke and mirrors at this point.  Nothing is really happening.

Feedback Loop

I wrote recently about Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death, and his introductory claim that we are in more danger of embracing the Huxley version of totalitarianism because it's a path of less resistance than the externally-imposed Orwellian version. I think there is something related in media bias.

Conservatives complain that legacy media has an enormous power to influence their readers by the way they report - or more often don't report - the events of the day. They are especially skilled at reporting-without-reporting, underemphasizing a story to begin with, leaving out important details, and then dropping all mention of it as soon as possible.  In discussions with liberals at work, I often find that they have not even heard of some of the events I reference, or have never heard that a particular story was seriously undermined by later events, or even exposed as a hoax entirely. "But what about that guy who shot that Congresswoman after reading Sarah Palin's website?" (Actual quote.)

Yet the media outlets in this era of cancel culture and fevered objection respond to their audience as well.  In August he New York Times changed its headline after it initially reported that Trump was urging unity against racism.  Can't have that. They are in some ways at the mercy of their readers, not their leaders.  And indirectly, the audience can go elsewhere, exercising control that way. We might look through the other end of the telescope and say that all media outlets, even the historically most respected, are simply responding like amoebae to exterior forces, giving their public what they want to hear.  They consider stories less-important and think no one wants to hear any more about that, not because they are craftily burying it for political advantage, but because they think like their audience so thoroughly that no self-examination is necessary.

Who is leading whom?

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Ghost Church

This Czech church had fallen into disrepair, after part of the roof caved in during a funeral decades ago and the parishioners decided it was haunted. An art student, Jakub Hadrava, created plaster statues to populate the pews. His intention was to describe Czech History under the Austro-Hungarian Empire and communism, but the locals have moved back in for worship, now that tourist interest has allowed them to restore the building.

I suppose one could get used to this.


I am not an especial lover of cities, but looking at them this way, I can see the beauty.  I suspect that for those who love cities, something like this excitement is what they have in mind.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Eating Meat

Instapundit is always going to highlight those studies which show that traditional nutrition guidelines have been badly flawed [the food pyramid may end up taking a few years off my life, wildly underestimating the damage from starches (can I sue someone?  It's the American Way)] , but as a counter to that possible bias, the article about red meat not being a serious risk is from the New York Times, which presumably has a different bias.

There is an interesting assumption buried in the story officials still must give advice and offer guidelines, said Dr. Meir Stampfer, also of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Who sez? Where does that rule come from, that people from the government have to offer advice? It is assumptions like this, unquestioned, that are a serious part of the divide in this country.  There are people who believe that of course the federal government should hire lots of people to sort through this information and issue proclamations about what is good for the people.  They see it as one of the functions of government. Other Americans believe that individuals and various advocacy groups should make the best pitch they can and let people make their own choices; and if they choose badly, it is on their own head.  The weight of government offering an opinion, even if they don't make it  mandatory, implies some level of guarantee. Not perfect,perhaps, but acceptable.  Except it's not even acceptable.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Hong Kong

I don't know what I can do for the protestors in Hong Kong, other than mention them, and pray for them.

Take a moment to pray for them now.  They also have families and children and lives and careers in jeopardy.  Yet they persist. This is what a real resistance looks like.

Paying College Athletes

I don't care so much about the issue - it affects me not in the least. But I care about logic, and there is plenty of faulty reasoning going on about the issue.

The athletes for the two major sports, football and men's basketball at big schools get given much of value.  Twenty-year-olds don't always understand much about value, however. They are given excellent room and board.  The recent stories of basketball players complaining they didn't have enough for meals in college reveals that they sold meal tickets because they wanted the cash.  They are offered plenty of food.  The receive excellent medical care.  Because their health is one of the main things the school is interested in, the school makes sure they get MRIs and other diagnostic tests, proper medication, diagnoses and treatment even for injuries and conditions they did not acquire on the playing fields. You have to be quite wealthy to get better medical care. I fully admit that their risks are higher. Nonetheless, it's very good care.

They have a built in social life, plus a significant leg up in status on campus.  Not that everyone loves athletes, but plenty do admire them and want to be with them. They also have a network to draw on for future jobs, if they choose to use it.  There are plenty of alums who like to know people on the team and are glad to invite them places. They have businesses and know others who do too. These aren't a guarantee, but they are an advantage.

I haven't even mentioned the education yet, have I?  That's actually more of a mixed bag. Not all these athletes can benefit much from it.  They get some benefit from acquiring credits or even a degree even if they are clueless, but most of that is temporary.  People will find out soon enough they were carried through.  Still, they are likely to pick up something, and demonstrating that you can at least show up regularly has value to employers. But some sportswriters overvalue the education given.  Yes, it was a great gift to you, who could not have afforded it otherwise, but not everyone can avail themselves of it.

Value isn't enough for some of the athletes. There is one creditable reason for this and one immature one.  The good reason is that it feels strange and unfair for them to live in comfort while their families back home are still poor. They may get great medical care, but it's their younger sister who needs it more. It must feel strange to eat well when you know that Mom and the siblings are not.

The bad reason is that what they really want is spending money, to show off, to live large. That's not unusual in a 20-year-old, but it doesn't mean we have to regard it as a legitimate complaint.

The next set of problems is a false belief of how much they are going to make.  The athletes and their advocates claim that the school makes money off their image, which they should be entitled to some of. No, that's pretty generic.  If you weren't there in the team picture someone else would be, Jason. It's the school who makes you money, if you end up going pro. They gave you the launching pad.  At the beginning of last season, Zion Williamson was one of 3-4 players viewed as about equal.  Had all of them gone directly to the pros, he would not have been as big a deal nor commanded as much money and a shoe contract.  Getting the chance to show he was better at Duke got him drafted #1.  Autographs?  Please.  How many other than Zion could have sold autographs last year? The same goes for shirts, balls, wristbands.  There isn't the market for college players they think there is.

The feeling that the athletes should be paid comes from something else.  Because some other people make money, and they are involved in the process, people feel some money should flow to the athlete. It just feels more fair.  But as above, it isn't the athlete who is bringing most of the value to the equation, it's the school.  It's what's on the front of the shirt, not the back. Yes, it does help when a smaller school gets a star or a collection of semi-stars and gets into the national spotlight for a year or two.  In those situations, the athlete is providing some value added.  But not much. That can only happen on a foundation of already-existing value.

The best college players are already convinced that their real peer group is the pros, who make a lot of money.  Yet that is only half-true.  Only half of them are going to succeed and make a lot of money in the pros.  Their college teammates, having come that close to glory, believe they are just one tick less worthy than that, and hence worth a lot of money as well.  As I have said before about sports, no one of them has any intrinsic value. Make the basketball a little bigger, make the strike zone a little lower, make the football field a little smaller - or change a few rules in any sport - and different players will succeed. Tennis is arbitrary. Being almost as good but not having any entertainment or teaching value is worth no money at all.

I understand that it feels bad.  Football players show up to school early, put in a lot of effort, injure themselves, work hard, and it feels like they should be compensated for that.  They are, just not in spending money.

Bilbo Baggins

I have lots of these videos stored up.  I could go on a long time.

Rocket Man

Tell me how you really feel about this Mr. Taupin.

Most-Visited Posts #26-30

Sometimes all it takes to finally understand a topic is One Fact. November 2016

Local Aristocracy and Nationalisation of Culture. A cultural change in my lifetime. November 2017

Kazimir Malevich.  In trying to solve a puzzle about this painter, I learned that I was entirely wrong, and there was no puzzle. But I learned a fair bit in trying. January 2018

Chesterton Through The Eyes of Borges. This is fun if you like either author, extra fun if you like them both. June 2011

Nigger. A discussion of the use of the word, or more exactly, who gets to use it and how weird this is to those of us who just refuse to ever use it. I think the ground has already changed since I wrote this in November 2013.  Many comments, some deleted.

As I Just Said about Hoaxes

This was the story I wanted you to notice.  (Update:  I had not yet read Richard Johnson's comment.) It was too convenient. The sixth-grade boys did not attack the girl. But it would have been so cool if they did, because not only does Mike Pence's wife work there, but it's a private Christian school. Tough when reality doesn't work out for you like that.

So right off the bat, the sixth-grade boys were carrying scissors out to recess in a coordinated effort to cut the girls hair?  Then they waited all recess, accurately timing until just before the bell to jump her, cut a little hair and insult her, then run off laughing just as the bell rang? Really? Do you know any sixth-grade boys? Next, Sixth grade boys don't think in the large abstractions necessary to insult someone by saying "You should never have been born." It is possible, certainly, that one of them could have heard an older person use that insult, or sometimes a certain insult will make the rounds in an area and drop down as far as the sixth graders, but sixth-graders don't think like that. That they said her hair was nappy was also possible, but unlikely.  Calling it ugly was always possible.  That is something sixth-grade boys might say.

Also, grandmother takes this story to the news. Red flag. Parents and guardians with legitimate gripes can eventually do such things, but usually they exhaust the possibilities with the school first - or the school doubles down in some way to signal that they aren't going to listen.  Those things are possible.  They do happen.  But when that is bypassed it's a bad sign.

It is also possible that they have been teasing her since school started and she based a dramatic lie off that truth. We apparently aren't going to get details if that's true. I'm guessing not. The statements released by the school and the hoaxer's family suggest otherwise, but those were carefully planned statements, designed that there be no leakage.

This sounds like a sad little girl in the custody of her grandmother who feels ugly and that her blackness is unwelcome and has wished at times she had never been born, so she puts that off on others in accusation.  Victimhood was the solution that occurred to her.  That is not new.  I remember kids at school and camp embracing victimhood. Heck, I tended that way myself in childish romantic relationships.  Self-pity can be powerful, and is not uncommon at that age.  I think we do worry that the victimhood solution is more common now, and adults are more ready to believe it without looking at it closely.

How To Spot A Hoax

It looks like it's time to reprint this, just seven months later. Well, it was coming up anyway, in my most-visited posts. 


Well, one kind of hoax, anyway. I'm not a general hoax expert.

When the story is just too perfect, when it fits the stereotype that the hoax perpetrator wants to believe, that's a big clue. Lots of people wanted it to be true that high school boys wearing MAGA hats were saying racist things and even looking a little violent and out of control. So a Native American says "I thought they were going to lynch those black people." Really?  You thought those 16-year-olds were going to pull out some rope and wade into a group of black adults, and start dragging them out one-by-one, looking for a tree branch or a light pole?

But it would just be so cool if they were like that.  I'll bet they would be like that if they only had the chance.  It's not too far-fetched that they could conceivably do that... 

The racist note written to a black student having difficulties at Air Force Prep turn out to be written by - the victim. Yet that doesn't matter so much as the idea that it could have been written by someone else, and weneedtohaveamonologueCONVERSATIONaboutracism, because all those awful people keep denying that racism and sexism exist, so we will have to proceed as if those lacrosse players could have raped that black girl, or Emma Sulkowitz was really assaulted, that Haven Monahan really exists.  There's a new one, some actor, Smollet?  Justy Smollett?  The first I heard of the story, red flags.  Too perfect.  Most real anti-semitic events are just stupid vandalism, and don't have a poetic beauty about their violence and threats.

Real hate crimes are usually crude: some jerk shoves someone while insulting them. Those happen.  Those are real sexism, homophobia, racism, whatever. But they aren't really interesting enough to make the newspapers.  They are over in a minute.  They might involve a possibility of real violence, but they just don't have the sexiness that a real stereotype-fulfilling story does.  The public demands that a gay martyrdom be real, not just a drug deal gone bad with some other guys who worked for the same pimp.

There was a great one last year, about a black doctor who had struggled under difficult conditions working for the poor all day, then some white bigot called him a racial epithet and squealed his tires getting away in the parking garage, laughing.  My cousin posted it.  You know I am not tactful, but I worked really hard at gradually revealing that this was actually fiction.  I didn't use the words "fake news."  Not even at the end when my cousin insisted rather angrily (and another cousin unfriended me over the exchange) that even if it wasn't technically true it was true and important, because real black people go through things like this every day. Except, well, I actually do know a fair number of black doctors, and they all shook their heads and rolled their eyes when I relayed the story over the next two weeks. It should be true, dammit, therefore its falseness is irrelevant.

Yesterday I had a beauty: a woman who claimed that she had encountered a Trump protestor in a MAGA hat and a red, white, & blue top that barely covered her torso - oh, there's a nice touch. Not that no Trump supporter ever dressed that way, but it was very obliging of the woman to be something unsavory as well as stupid in just the right way, isn't it? - who said "But he's our ruler.  We have to do what he says."

Uh, Trump supporters have the opposite problem.  They might say a lot of silly or obnoxious things, but I think we can fairly rule out the docile followers idea.  I've been in many arguments with them online, including here at my own site, and let me assure you, that is not their problem. What you will find are people who say they will refuse to do X, whether the government or even their favorite president says so, and you have to pull them quietly aside and say "Uh, Phil?  You actually do have to do that.  It's the law.  Just sayin'." But hey, it would have been so cool if some trollop actually had said "He's our ruler. We have to do what he says." Those Trump people are so easily led and certainly capable of it, eh? So some woman somewhere - they think - likely said that.  And, probably a lot like that woman it the skimpy top who said something (completely unrelated that doesn't fit my current narrative), and was really annoying. So we can call it true-ish.  True, really.

Give me a break.  You're lying. No one said that.

I am going to guess at the motives or (ahem) reasoning, but I don't insist on these. We don't know others' motives all that well - we seldom even know all of even our own motives - and motives are mixed. Projection is likely. But I think there is this idea that A) they are right-wing, and therefore Justlikenazis not very far below the surface, and we know that real nazis acted like that in another country and completely different cultural context, know...don't you get it? Okay, sure, when you start insisting on things like evidence in 20thC Europe, it was actually the communists who blindly followed leaders, yes.  Franco's Spain and Mussolini's Italy were actually highly factionalised countries just barely held together, okay.  But it just feels  like German nazis are the best comparison here, doesn't it?  Because it would be so cool if Trump's supporters turned out to be just like that. It would vindicate us.

Let me throw in a parenting reassurance for free, because there is a parallel.  When the school calls and says your kid is getting detention and is in trouble for X, you usually know immediately if this is off-the-wall.  All five of my sons were capable of earning a detention, but a few times, there would be this accusation and you would go - hmmm. Not my kid. There is something missing from this story. The school doesn't want to hear your protest, because they deal with parents who are clueless about their kid's misbehavior all the time.  Your protest that "This is not my kid's style of misbehavior" will fall on deaf ears.  But for good parents, you know.  "My could could easily do A, or C, or G. But you are telling me he did E, and there's something wrong here.  Hold on."

Wait, this example is much fairer in reverse.  My children could have been told a story that "Your dad got in trouble for saying X to a ref." For some values of X, that would be quite possible.  Yet for others, my children would shake their head.  Nope.  Not my dad.  Not that one.  Someone is making that up.

Once you know to look for poetic perfection as a disproof, the news becomes easier. Bush splitting from the Air National Guard?  Too perfect.  John Kerry getting hat from a CIA guys?  Too perfect.

Bonus extra credit.  Some autobiographies fit the mold.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

My Dad


Three runners are capable of sub 2:02 this year and have not run against each other.  The record inches closer to 2 hours, but not this year.  However, 2:01 might, might be possible this year, with a few major marathons still up.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

More Pronunciation

People look down on Kentuckians who call their town Ver-SAYLES.  Don't they know it's Ver-SIGH?

Really?  And do they themselves say Pa-REE for the capital of that country? Do they say Moskva - and how do you pronounce "Moskva" anyway, Jasper? - for the towns in Maine and Idaho? Here in NH, that paper mill city on the Androscoggin River is pronounced BER-lin. When I was a child, I thought the Germans just said that wrong.

Roma, Firenze, Torino...

I learned to put the "sh" sound into both Budapest and Bucharest two decades ago through repetition and not wanting to sound wrong to the people there.  So then I come back to America and these sound like something of an affectation.  Wrong either way, I suppose.

When I Was On Horseback

Catch the similarity of some later verses of "The Streets of Laredo," 5,000 miles away.

""Let six jolly cowboys come carry my coffin
Let six pretty gals come to carry my pall
Throw bunches of roses all over my coffin
Throw roses to deaden the clods as they fall"

"Oh, beat the drum slowly, and play the fife lowly
And play the dead march as you carry me along
Take me to the green valley and lay the earth o'er me
For I'm a poor cowboy and I know I've done wrong"

No large surprise.  They both are versions of an 18th C song "The Unfortunate Rake." It is one of many examples of Scots-Irish music in America.  We tend to think of that as an Appalachian phenomenon, but those were the same restless people who settled South and West.  Lots of cowboy songs were Scots-Irish in origin. Engaging in and preventing cattle rustling was big with those crowds as well - same as with the Celtic tribes back in Europe.

"St James Infirmary" is as well.

A Story on Speaking English

Two of my eight great-grandparents were born in Sweden. They spoke Swedish at home* but pushed themselves to speak much English and insisted their children speak it as much as possible, and to speak it correctly.  "Speak English like the American children do at school," she and her siblings were told. In a mill city in the early 1900's, there was something funny about this, as there were immigrants everywhere. My great-aunt Selma protested "But they speak so many kinds of English at school.  Which one should I learn?"

"Isn't the Straw girl in your class?" The Straws were wealthy mill-owners and that school was named after the grandfather. "Speak like she does."

BTW, you can throw the word "patronizing" back at people whichever pronunciation they use, if you think they will get the joke.  "I'm sure you meant PAH-tronizing," or "I'm sure you meant PAY-tronizing" with mock condescension.

*I have mentioned the childhoods of that side of the family before, which were novelised by their cousin Jennie D Lindquist in three children's books.  The first one, The Golden Name Day,  was nominated for the Newbery in 1955.

Friday, September 27, 2019


It is a non-standard pronunciation, more common in southern and midwestern regions, but it does not brand a person as stupid.  Yesterday Sarah Hoyt chided Jimmy Carter for use of that pronunciation, implying ignorance.  I don't recall whether he did use it.  I do know that Bush 43 did, and so did Eisenhower. All it means is that he heard the word in a local vernacular pronunciation before he read it.  Many pronunciations we consider "wrong" fall into this category.  People read a word they have not yet heard, or don't connect it to a word they have heard.  I heard someone say CHAZm instead of KAZm on a podcast, and the next day heard him wonder whether "homage" was pronounced with the "h" or in a French manner. People who chatter find such things uproariously funny.  I used to do it myself, looking down on a person who referred to something that "Maxx Webber" said. But he had quoted VAY-ber accurately, so it was a ridiculous snobbery on my part.  He had read the man and knew something about his thought.  At the time I had only spoken about him and knew only how to pronounce his name.

It's not necessarily a shame in the other direction either.  To have heard a word in conversation early enough that a local pronunciation is embedded before we are old enough to read it is acceptable, is it not? We do have an idea that people should make an effort to adopt the standard pronunciation. Sometimes, I suppose. I wouldn't make a general rule of it.  I have heard there are PhD's at Oak Ridge who say "nukular." 
In pronouncing nuclear, the second and third syllables are most commonly said as [-klee-er] , a sequence of sounds that directly reflects the spelled sequence ‐cle · ar. In recent years, a somewhat controversial pronunciation has come to public attention, with these two final syllables said as [-kyuh-ler] . Since [-klee-er] , the common pronunciation of ‐cle · ar, might also be represented, broadly, as [-kluh-yer] , the [-kyuh-ler] pronunciation can be seen as coming from a process of metathesis, in which the [l] and the [y] change places. The resulting pronunciation is reinforced by analogy with such words as molecular, particular, and muscular, and although it occurs with some frequency among highly educated speakers, including scientists, professors, and government officials, it is disapproved of by many.
Molecular, particular, and muscular.  I hadn't thought of that.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


So the New Yorker thinks the whistleblower report is devastating, Instapundit says it's a nothingburger, and the instant poll says 50% of America thinks it's impeachable and 50% doesn't.

I would have preferred that a higher percentage of the public had said "Don't Know," but I guess that is asking too much.

I have my suspicions how this will develop, but prefer to observe what information comes out.  There is time. There's no hurry.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


We think "cute," and "wow, amazing!"

I also think "I don't want one of those things tracking me."


Commenter Robert Sykes over at Maggie's Farm, who I assume is the same sykes who visits here, put me on to a site called Antiplanner, which I am liking. It puts numbers to assertions, which is always welcome. I am currently reading about federal help for light rail and metros - which they refer to more generally as transit - and why it continues to be a money-loser. Good stuff. The blogger is a lover of trains, BTW, but doesn't allow that to cloud his vision.


"Why Now?" We ask ourselves at times in the psychiatric emergency biz.  Yes, she has a horrible abuse history and is homeless, but that was true last week, last month, last year, and she was not in crisis. What has happened to upend things?

So why now for impeachment? Is it the amount of time it stands out from the election?  Is it to distract from some obvious conversations during the primary season? I suggest a main reason is to delegitimise any possible Supreme Court nomination (plus anything else he wants to do).  After all, how can we possibly accept the nomination of a president who is being impeached?

I wonder how long the nation can sustain this level of hysteria.  In the first year or so of Trump's presidency it was easy enough to ascribe it to him, directly or indirectly.  If his opponents were hysterical and employing kitchen-sink methods of stopping him, that was easily explained by how bad he is.  Their actions were not contemptible but noble and just, but that reckoning. It shows how they really understand the situation and how much they care. (Again, we understand their motives easily, they do not understand ours all that well. Thank you, Jonathan Haidt.) It's actually fairly easy to get a rest from Trump.  Just pay no attention to his tweets, not first hand, not second or third-hand. The rest is manageable.  It is harder to get a rest from Democrats and their crisis of the month, across a broad range of issues. Youth feel anxiety.  More than before, or about the same as always, it doesn't matter in politics. Democrats will keep telling them that Snowball destroyed the windmill, they are anxious because of Trump and conservatives.

It may be that this hysteria is not that difficult to sustain, but a baseline level of anxiety that we will attribute to something or other regardless of the reality around us. We all worry about as much as we can stand, and find it hard to worry less.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Local radio host says Greta Thunberg sounds like Elizabeth Warren. Hmm. To research this i would have to listen to both of them in a variety of videos.

Not worth it.

Kumail Nanjiani Humor

Monday, September 23, 2019


Great line by Ann Althouse: Why bother to make comedies for people with no sense of humor? 

And yet they do.  There is much to learn from contemplating this.

Tribes Series - Most Visited Posts

If you think this list is long, I have also referenced its general ideas in many other posts.

I thought at the time I was writing it over a decade ago I was a voice in the wilderness, with only a few academics writing about it in a more general sense, and some modern writers coming up to the edge of it but not really embracing the idea.

In the past four or five years I have read more people using the concept.  It may be because I just notice it now, though it was always there.  If it is becoming a more common concept, I like to think I may have played a supporting role in that.

Last published in 2011.  Originally written 2006-2008. It was my most-frequent topic in the early years. It is now not so much a topic as an idea fully embedded in my thinking about everything else. Some of these links are to very short essays of only a paragraph or two, but others are longer and/or link to further readings.  This will take you a while, and I won't add in anything new but fun stuff for a while.

Reposting the old series from 3-5 years ago. I collected all my “tribes” writing into one post for easier reference later. And now it's later. People who have been following the blog might enjoy the refresher. Newer readers might like to see what is probably my main partly-original contribution to the world's discussions. These are in chronological order, not importance or intelligence.
The Influence of Doonesbury
Trudeau inherited the mantle of righteousness from the folksingers, and became the chief exponent of the idea that conservatives were essentially stupid and had evil motives.
Early Tribes Writing
I recall going into Walmart a few years ago and thinking "There's a lot of ethnic folks here. Huh." I thought immediately after, "I wonder if that's what the people who hate Walmart are really objecting to. There are poor people here, immigrants, odd-looking people."
Types of Answers in Education
Modern study in much of the Liberal Arts and Humanities rewards students for a certain type of answer.
But "Postliberal" also gives a sense of my history and my approach to issues.
Evolutionary Psychology
Evolutionary psychologists speak of survival strategies of individuals being bound up in the survival strategies of the group.
Not Their Tribe
The Arts & Humanities crowd in America do not support OIF, or indeed nearly any war, because they do not perceive their tribe to be in danger.
Hoist On My Own Petard
John b made the claim that doubt was the defining characteristic for Episcopalians, which I scoffed at.
A Thought On Hollywood Liberals
The explanations why entertainment folks lean left usually identify two factors: they make their livings via emotion, and they aren’t very bright. That’s too facile. I offer two factors which have more explanatory power.
The Sadness of NPR Christmas
Year-round, NPR tends to the bittersweet, the witty rather than uproarious, the world-weary rather than the cynical, the poignant, the melancholy, the wistful.
C.P. Snow's Two Cultures Today
Scientist and novelist CP Snow declared fifty years ago that the educated classes were becoming two cultures, literary and scientific.
Renaming The Tribe
I have already mentioned my desire to rename what I have been calling the Arts & Humanities Tribe. While the name has the right feel to it, it does not enclose the group as neatly as I would like. It does not mention the social science folks who make up a large portion of the tribe, and it suggests a connection between the humanities and political liberalism that is permanent rather than temporary.
The Other Tribes
Science and Technology Tribe – Call it the Geek Tribe if you want, but they are gradually taking over social sciences, and making inroads into arts and entertainment, so I wouldn’t insult them too much.
State of the Discussion
Several commenters have advocated that I delineate my tribes according to cognitive styles: left-brain, right-brain; pragmatic, synthesizer.
A&H Tribe - Plodding Onward
Pew’s identified group of Liberals (19% of the population) are outliers on many issues.
Tribe, Class, and Cold Pizza
In the comments sections of one of my Tribal posts, Cold Pizza linked to a long but excellent article on the Rand Corp site about tribalism and its effect on societal development.
Arts & Humanities Clans
There are A&H subgroups, with varying degrees of adherence to the larger group’s values.
Science & Technology Tribe in Humor
All those MIT and Caltech jokes over the years - the third guy on the guillotine who looks up at it and says "Hey, I see why that thing doesn't work," for example, illustrate the S&T culture. This group often has the enormous social confidence of themselves writing most of the humor making fun of them.
How Shall The Country Be Run?
When disputants not only give different answers, but different types of answers, it is likely they are answering different questions. If they not only give different evidence, but different types of evidence, we can use this to discover what are the questions behind the questions that the various parties are asking.
Peter Leithart over at has been making frequent reference to Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, a German social philosopher who moved to America in 1932, teaching first at Harvard, then many years at Dartmouth. I had never heard of this man in any context that I remember, but he does seem to have been quite brilliant, and quite fascinating.
That Tribal Name Again
I had thought the term chattering classes was older. A Dorothy Parker term or something of that era. According to the revised OED entry, however, it dates from 1980.
Running Commentary
Robert Fulghum has a mildly interesting piece about American tribal behavior. I recall similar pieces from college sociology and anthropology texts, purporting to view America from an objective standpoint.
Sunday Mornings
The idea of having other gods is a commonplace for Christians. We hear sermons on it, read books about it, teach it to our children. We know from the examination of our own hearts that such things are not only possible, but the natural state of things. There is a spiritual Second Law of Thermodynamics that says we will move inexorably toward lesser, path-of-least-resistance gods unless organizing energy is put into the system.
Imus In The Morning
He had Chris Matthews this morning complaining about George Bush. I keep telling you, they hate him because he's from the wrong tribe.
The Long Post
It starts on family culture, ends on American Tribal Politics. I will summarize the latter soon under "Surprise #2." For those scoring at home, I am in my 50's - the uncle I write to here is 80. The Arts & Humanities Tribe may be changing in the younger generations.
The Soul of America
Conservatives complain that the left is not serious about the War on Terror, but is treating Bush and the neocons as the enemy. Put less confrontively, the left is fighting a different battle - one for the soul of America.
The Ideas, and Why They're Wrong
If we fight, we are becoming just like our enemies. Well, no. The express train to becoming like our enemies is to be conquered by them. A slower, but equally reliable train, is to negotiate with them.
The Internationalist Elite as Secular Religion
Kenneth Anderson of Washington College of Law at American University and the Hoover Institute at Stanford has an article which will be dear to the heart of those who have participated in the discussion of American tribes: Secular Eschatologies and Class Interests of the Internationalized New Class.
Why Do Intellectuals Oppose The Military?
Schooling, maintains Nozick, breeds in intellectuals a sense of superiority, and with it a sense of entitlement to the highest rewards society has to offer - not just top salaries but praise comparable to that lavished on them by their teachers.