Thursday, October 14, 2021

Professor Longhair


Pretty Girls, Lighthearted Singers

What more could you want, Jack?

You will hear some similarity to "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?"

Reunion Advice

It was fine. However I have learned something for next time: the formal events were mostly a waste, as we had sparse contact with anyone we remembered or had desired to see again; but the informal events that we and other friends had arranged in advance, seeking out the people we were most interested in, worked out quite well. 

Also, next time we will stay within walking distance of the campus rather than circle endlessly looking for parking places.  Colleges have parking problems all the time anyway, worsened for all football games, not just Homecoming.  Add in that this was two sets of alumni classes, both the 0's & 5's and the 1's & 6's, and top it all off with the postponed commencement of the Class of 2020 and there was nothing I could find closer than half a mile for one event. There are a few B&B's nearby, and I didn't even check the AirBnB's.

We discovered the college had named a building after a friend of mine.  I asked his wife why this had happened. "Guilt."  It seems that his last job before retirement from the school was Director of Covid Operations, which involved not only difficult decision-making with very real downstream consequences either way, but talking with all the government official and agencies, politicians, factions within the college, special interest groups, and media.  The people you would pay any money to get away from, basically. It's not a large building, but still. It doesn't happen to many people unless they give millions of dollars to a place.

Stone Circles, Axeheads, and Beer

When I took a few anthropology courses in the 1970s, they were primarily Mesoamerican - that is, we studied the history of maize, followed by pottery because those give you the structure for everything else you are going to study. So I missed all the European arguments, as there was a sea-change under way,* with growing claims that the axeheads being discovered were mostly ceremonial rather than weapons. Some clearly were, as an important burial might include multiple axeheads from distant places, such as jadeite from the Italian Alps showing up in Britain, all of them unused - never even fastened to a handle. This accorded with the cultural belief that particular Westerners had brought all manner of violence to the rest of the world, which had previously only had low-level skirmishing. The bastards. Archaeology itself was seen to be entirely a colonialist exercise, following on the heels of Europeans teaching the world to go to war, and there has been breast beating even unto the present day about Awful Us. This of course never means Us, but is a disguised version of accusing our internal political and cultural rivals.  The real Them, actually. 

I won't get much into that argument, other than to refer again to Lawrence Keeley's War Before Civilization, which explodes that notion. Quite simply, if you have low-level skirmishing in a small tribe every year or two, you end up with more deaths in combat than from pitched battles and full-scale wars. Secondly, war is observed and recorded (and now dug up and evaluated) before there was Western influence, pretty much everywhere. The myth arises because Westerners brought writing and curiosity about others, so that proof of much violence before they arrived is scant. The English and Germans especially were the horrible oppressive archaeologists in other lands primarily because they were the only people interested in everyone else.  that curiosity spread to other Europeans, and to the Anglosphere. Other countries did not extractively dig up cool stuff and take it home from South America or Indonesia because they didn't care enough about them to go there and find out about them. Thirdly, Seven of the ten deadliest wars in history have been fought in Asia, which should be the (ahem) death blow to the idea.  Except it isn't, of course, as in the previous post. There is a need to believe otherwise.

I hope I remember to write up newer examples about how "We," (meaning "You") are terribly racist in our interpretation of the events of prehistory.  But I am already too far afield.

But there was an impressive trade in axeheads, many of them ceremonial, this is true. It is difficult in prehistorical research to discover exactly where they were traded. We might suspect sites at or near ports. Another major possibility would be crossroads. Lastly, sites near where they were quarried would go high on the list. In the last few decades, however, there is increasing evidence of only roughed-out heads being traded near the quarries. 

And here we come to another spot where exchange of information from other places becomes important. There are still tribes where quarrying particular stone for weapons is still done, and archaeologists go on digs in many places. There is also late historical record in the New World of where the "best" flint for arrowheads came from, according to the indigenous peoples.  The best places were often the inaccessible ones, those well up the mountains or far from good water sources.  Only there, after the journey, is the Strong stone, the Spiritual stone, the Favored stone found.  So those archaeologists go later in their career to Wales or the Carpathians, and the evidence of quarrying up high, even though the stone below is as good or even better, makes sense.  But you wouldn't want to set up an entire axehead-shaping-and-finishing site there.  Too expensive. You trade for chunks of that in markets below, if those at the markets have not already put in the hours of finishing themselves.

There is, obvious when you think about it, difficulty in the record in that axeheads would not be the sort of thing that would be left behind in the places they were traded.  If you brought something from the Alps to Cornwall but didn't happen to trade it, you wouldn't just shrug and leave it there. You would put it back in your bag and press on to the next minor king to see if he might be interested. When expensive goods are found they are in burials, or in battlefields or destroyed buildings, though even those latter are often picked clean immediately after. Axeheads - whether for work or decoration - are highly portable and you take them with you.


A word about inaccessible places. We usually find stone circles, stone rows, and barrows in high, inaccessible places.  Very romantic, gazing out over the moors or the valleys or the ocean from within one of the thousands of stone circles in GB. (Many of the circles are of nine or nineteen stones, BTW, with some speculation that these were counters for the 18.6 year lunar cycle.  Could be.) Yet it pays to remember that these could well be an unrepresentative sample. If barrows or circles were built everywhere, those in the farming areas would have long since been ripped down and plowed under.  There are stone circles in the north of England where you can see the missing stones in the distance, lying flat as part of a wall or barn. When the original significance is lost, people either adapt the site to their own purposes or just take the lovely building material for their own. The ancient structures in areas that people needed for settlements are likewise no longer visible, nor ever likely to be.  Our romantic picture that they these were always in wild places is almost surely false.  It's just that no one disturbed them in the wild places.  There was no need.  It may be that every family had its own little barrow, no right in the settlement, but not so far away either, or that every settlement had its stone circle, most now pulled down.

Still, when I go to Orkney I am going to have the thousand-yard stare while standing among the stones, just like everyone else. 


A second word about trade. We romanticise this or picture it falsely as well. We have a strong tendency - even archaeologists and science writers have it - to think of an individual trader, setting out into the unknown with goods to trade, hoping to find buyers for metalwork, or wine, or amulets. We marvel at their ingenuity, or courage, or cleverness. No, it was a job, and the necessary information built up over generations.  If you take X number of axeheads to Brittany you are likely to be able to unload them at a particular festival, and if your luck is bad you can reroute on the way home trying to sell the last few at a worse price at a port market further up the coast. As crop yields or safety changed the traders would adjust. A lot of it is trial and error over generations. It is impressive in aggregate, but for each individual guy landing a boat in what is now the Netherlands - not so much. They knew their markets.


The arguments about putting a tunnel under Stonehenge to get the roads away from it (I am pro-Tunnel.  I will expand on this if that seems wrong to you) have caused folks all over the Isles to get exercised about roads an their own stone circles.  In more than a few places there are roads that go right through  a large circle, which makes people shudder at the desecration.  Don't people know these are sacred sites?

It turns out these roads aren't new.  In fact, when you dig up the site, you find that the road has always gone through the circle, so far as we can tell. In a few cases, even two roads - which gets people to thinking. And rethinking the digging, and the burnt pig bones and evidence of fences and weird post holes within and without the circles. In our era we divide up functions and separate them somewhat, so that places where we have worship and places we have trade, or places we negotiate truces and places we have parties are somewhat separate.  Not entirely, even now.  Yet our picture of stone circles as sacred sites, Stonehenge especially, has images of fire at night, and blood sacrifice, and people chanting dire things. Priests shrieking, eyes rolling back in the head, drums pounding, large groups of pilgrims from great distance walking in processions.

Well, that's not the only kind of sacred ceremony, is it? Another kind is that everyone drives their sheep for trade or barbecue**, brings all their best costumes and goods, including marriageable young people, attends processions happily in daylight, singing songs and fasting only in anticipation of feast very soon. Even human sacrifice - we must remember that they were not quite like us - was just part of the fun. We will renew our agreements about boundaries. We will watch blood sports together and cheer. We will tell dirty stories and re-enact the myths of gods or heroes. 

Remember those traders from hundreds of miles away?  They would know when the festivals were and what they might hope to trade for there. As markets changed they might gradually switch which festival they went to at summer solstice, gathering news from others. 

The sheep had to be contained somehow. Evidence of wood between stones at some circles could mean many things, but dark deeds at midnight is looking ever less likely. Meter-thick posts were set in meter-apart grids at a few sites, and Avebury is being re-looked at in that manner. What the heck?  what can you do with that?  And why are there bones of pigs shot with arrows in there? We automatically think of those massive trunks as going up into the sky.  What if they were only six feet high, enough to keep a man inside from looking over the area but low enough for those outside to observe?  The ditch and wall surrounding may not have been designed to keep out prying eyes from viewing holy places until they had been properly cleansed with long rituals, they might have been places to sit and watch guys shooting at pigs among the "trees." Small stadiums. 

Which brings me to beer, which I will post on next, because this has gone very long.

*I have been corrected that it was never under weigh despite my previous claims (and learned my lesson).

**Sheep from Orkney were driven all the way to Stonehenge. For what purpose?  Unknown, but the possibilities are few.

Cold War Revisionism

When people want an idea to be true, they will continue to believe it even after it has been exposed as untrue. 

The popular American view, and the one put forth officially, was that the US was intervening around the world only to contain the Soviet threat. But historians can never let a popular view stand.  Something else must always be true, because they need to demonstrate that they understand these things better than the masses. The revisionist historians of the 1950s and especially 1960s asserted that the US was intent on aggressive spread of capitalism, so that it could dominate extractive trade more easily. The Soviet Union was never going to invade America and wished only regional influence.  It was the aggression of the Americans, in fact, that caused the Soviets to become so deeply involved around the world, propping up freedom movements trying to resist the US hegemony.

Let me note that this revisionist view is not entirely untrue. We did want to promote trade (I call that a good thing), but we did some terrible things in support of that. Most commonly, we supported leaders and parties in foreign countries who were oppressive bastards because they looked more favorable to trading with us.  We also took unfair advantage in many places. Their opposite numbers, supported by the communists, were usually worse, and there were seldom any decent parties available with a ghost of a chance of wielding power. I think it is a fair discussion to examine harshly what America did and if there were better choices, as there usually were choices that were at least somewhat better. The difficulty is that this discussion itself rapidly became unfashionable among historians. The accusing narrative became the preferred, set against the exaggerations of goodness that most Americans told themselves. Certainly, there were exaggerations of goodness.  Still are. But the destruction of those popular myths, not the uncovering of truth, became the real aim.

You will note that this coincides with the rise of the belief that there is no truth, only competing power narratives.  That has always struck me as a convenient philosophy for them, as it steers away from gathering information and understanding it, preferring instead to engage in conflict based on accusation of bad motives.

Robert James Maddox was (is! I find he is still alive at 90 years old) an anti-revisionist historian who came out with a book about The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War in 1973, which challenged the revisionist view. Included in this challenge - indeed the heart of the challenge - was that when one checked the footnotes of the revisionist historians, they not only did not support the claimed thesis, but often directly contradicted it. They built it brick by brick and looked impressive, but a great many bricks were not themselves solid. Yet they all told each other how correct they were, and how clearly they were onto something. Maddox had just previously written in criticism of a NYTimes essay "Did Anyone Start the Cold War?" and was already under fire from other historians.  But the NYTimes reviewed his 1973 book quite positively. And while we could not expect that this should have put an end to the matter, it should have been the beginning of the end for the revisionists. Misrepresenting (though perhaps only misunderstanding) one's sources is damning in academic writing.

Yet everyone went blithely on.  Maddox, though eventually professor emeritus from Penn State, was simply outnumbered and had ideas that were unpopular.

Relatedly, here is Maddox on the myth that the Japanese wanted to surrender, but Truman was intent on sending the atomic bomb "message" to the Soviet Union, resulting in hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. Notice that when he is arguing with the revisionists, challenging them to find even wisps of facts to support the thesis, they accuse him of ignoring "a huge body of distinguished scholarship."  But that was the professor's point. That huge body was based on nothing but a desire for it to be true.

I recall in the 90s, as I was shedding the last of my liberalism, that our behavior after the collapse of the Soviet Union was good evidence in favor of the originally popular view. When the USSR could no longer afford to prop up leftist movements, we departed as well, leaving countries to rule themselves, even if they didn't do as we wished.  I thought we had made good on our claim. A reasonable discussion at least. 

But my main point is about the footnotes, and the refusal to abandon treasured idea just because it has been exposed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Covid Updates

I stayed at the home of a college friend for a night after the reunion.  He had worked for the College of William and Mary for decades, retiring last year as a senior VP. All his work on the financial, budget, properties side of things. I asked his wife - because I didn't want Sam to have to brag on himself - why they had named a building after him. "Guilt.  His last job was as direct of operations during covid.  He had to deal with all the government agencies, politicians, interest groups, media, and factions within the college itself.  Not the job I would want.

I picked up some bits of info while I was away which I pass on to you. 

A researcher's claim that "Every randomised trial (of Ivermectin) that found a statistically significant benefit for survival was fake or did not happen as described." People quote studies they read in good faith and I am not being hugely critical of any of us when we weren't quite diligent enough or cautious enough in what we passed along. But be skeptical of the skeptics, and skeptical even of your own self.

The spread of covid visualised. I will take him at his word on the data.  His first conclusion, that "We had this thing beat in the spring of 2021" is weaker.  It is of course possible that we reopened too soon, leading to the summer spike in the South especially. This would be evidence in favor of that.  However, as further spikes were predicted even absent reopening, we don't know what the severity of those would be.  Then there was an immediate comment that "this shows that covid is an indoor phenomenon."  That is also defensible, and this would be evidence for the proposition. But... If you keep going in the comments, you will find that everyone seems to think that this proves what they already thought going in.  Even if they are correct in their conclusion - and I have considerable agreement with them - it is nothing near proof in any case.  I say this to highlight how easy it is to see what we want.

Every time I look at the death numbers I either think "Finally.  That's three days in a row now that are low.  We may be coming to the end," or "Damnit! Well over a thousand for a couple of days again. I hope we aren't looking at a spike in the North again this year as we go back inside." It is too easy to be swayed by short-term numbers when we are hoping for a particular result.

As usual, it is the bad reasoning, clearly motivated reasoning, more than the conclusions themselves that irritate me. If it were my business that had gone under I would be daily on the alert for claims that we overreacted and never needed lockdowns (The recent study showing lockdowns useless again made the error of equating what the government said to do with what people actually did.  I have related this to gun control, sex education, condom use, driver's ed and driver safety, etc previously and still think those analogies good.) If I had had a close relative die of covid I would be looking for evidence that we had underreacted and not acted safely enough. You selfish bastards. I think I fully get why people bring extra energy to the issue.  But all I can do is keep coming back to what actually seems to be so. 

Governments and skeptics might each have terrible motives but turn out to be correct.  Or people might have nothing but the best motives and get it wrong.  Motive is only a clue after the fact as to how things went wrong, not evidence in advance that they did.

I will now go on to more interesting and less infuriating posts about archaeology and stone circles (including beer and axe heads), liberal hereditarians,  (not) understanding Shakespeare, the privileging of current historians - especially WRT the Cold War, and the growing reversion to the primitive ideas about language that strings of phonemes - not even "words" - (like pronouns, insults) cause actual damage by their mere utterance.  And I'll bet I remember some other things on the way.

There and Back Again

But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.

He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara

One more before I go.

"Children of the Heavenly Father," an old Swedish hymn that still hangs on in some Lutheran and Covenant churches. In those places, it is mostly sung in English with only the last verse being in Swedish. Usually phonetic Swedish, with most of the children's choir having little idea what is being said. It looks like some Methodists have found it as well.

We are singing this version for the memorial service of Swede Nelson in a couple of weeks, who sang with the choir and directed the Men's Chorus for many years. Loved the man. Lots of fun to be with and still kept people focused on rehearsing. I think the church could bring in a bundle auctioning off the use of his nickname at this point. I, for one, have always coveted it, though "Swede Wyman" just doesn't work as well.

Interestingly, many of the old Swedes in the congregation say they did not hear the song as children, and it only started to become popular in the 1960s. Something similar was said at my last Swedish congregation. It does not seem to be regional, either, as both the Swedes who grew up in New England and those who grew up in the Midwest said the same. It must have been traditional somewhere, and then in the 50s someone started hitting it repeatedly and hard in children's choirs or Luciafest or something. 

I sang it at my Great Aunt Selma's and then my mother's funeral, so I can get a bit weepy at the "Though He giveth or He taketh..." part.. I didn't put it on the list for my own memorial service, not because i don't like it, but because other things pushed it out.


I had lunch with two friends from St Paul's ASP (51st anniversary) on Friday, leave today for Williamsburg for my 46th reunion (the 45th was cancelled), and come home to a Central High School 50th on the 16th. We've had the yearbooks out, looking at old photos. I have not been to a college one before. For highschool, I went to the 5th and hated it, didn't get back until the 20th, and have been a regular since. The displays of envy and one-upmanship started receding around the 30th and I hope are finally gone this time.  We'll see.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Regional Vaccination Rates

I have been nibbling at this Nine Nations cultural background to vaccination rates, but Colin Woodard, using his similar (11)American Nations schema, puts numbers to it and gives his interpretation why this is according to those cultural traits that go back to colonial times. You can detect his bias easily, but I don't think he gets it wrong. (Click to enlarge.)

Durham Indictment

I have been quite cynical that anything would come of this, as have others.  It seemed to be dragging out, I thought it could just be defunded and buried anyway, and despite the good reports everyone was giving about Durham, I felt I had heard all this many times before, that this guy was not like the others, this guy was a straight shooter, this guy was going to get it right.  And then those guys were like all the rest. 

I also hold the Epoch Times at arm's length, because they have such a clear bias. That's not to say they are inaccurate in any way - I really don't know much about that.  But they're only going to give you one side, so I don't tend to go there.

All that said, this was the most encouraging thing I have read since the first accusations against Trump being in cahoots with the Russians surfaced five years ago. (Hat tip: Maggie's Farm.) Durham is not going slowly, he just came on late and is doing his own work.  According to Patel, it's actually a little quick. Patel also sounds well-placed to understand these things.

For the record, when the accusations came out I thought it probable that Trump had some connections to some unsavory Russians, because in his development business he dealt with bad guys all the time, and those bad guys likely dealt with even worse guys. But I didn't think there was anything that looked at all convincing about him screwing with the election with Putin's help.  Even the allegations were a lot of hand-waving about BAD PEOPLE and DISINFORMATION without much substance. I thought it unfortunate that we might have a president who had worked with a fair number of crooks, including Russian crooks, but I worried also that a lot of exaggeration and insinuation was happening. That my cynical impression of Donnie from Queens turned out to itself be an exaggeration was good to learn as we went forward.

Incidentally, remember my repeated objection to Jonathan Haidt's assertion that conservatives use purity/degradation as a moral axis, but liberals tend not to?  Think about the Steele Dossier, and the attempt to disgust people, especially liberals, with a story that has both Obama and urine in it. Saint Barack should never be degraded in that way.  The type of accusation was carefully crafted to not only make Trump look like a bad man, but bad in a particular way. Liberals very much use the purity/degradation scale in their moral reasoning.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Louis Jordan

It is always perilous to try and suss out the origins of Rock 'N Roll.  If you say some aspect was first - first electric guitar or first back-beat - or pivotally influential, someone is sure to immediately find an earlier example, or lengthy interviews with early rockers who all point to a particular artist as an influence. The discussions can deteriorate into vagueness, or one-upmanship, or both. "Well, what about jump music?" "Well, what about Dixieland/jive/boogie/jug band?" 

Andrew Hickey is reportedly writing a five-volume history of R&R and I wish him well. It must be a labor of love, because he is going to have to spend the entire time talking with posers who are trying to prove him wrong and showing off the stray facts that they know, claiming them as authoritative proofs. Not me. I know my stray facts are just that and others know much more. 

However, being the Assistant Village Idiot, I do have some observations that I think helpful so long as you don't regard them as full explanations of...well, of anything.  

Rock descends from many ancestors, including some surprises.  I once looked with some disdain at a person who told me that polka music influenced rock-n-roll. Yet he made a clear case quickly.  Did I think that Western Swing influenced rock?  Well, yes, there's that whole Bill Haley/Buddy Holly strain, sure. Did I hear how polka influenced Western Swing? Okayyyy...sure...but was the influence the part that went on into rock?  Yes, he asserted.  It's the back-beat, hitting the 2nd and 4th beats of the measure.  Very polka. I also thought but didn't want to say aloud because I thought this was already out of hand, also very oompah band. I read once that it was the sound of trains on tracks, the sound of freedom and adventure, that resonated with so many people.  Could be.  But with a train, how the hell do you know where the beginning of the measure is?

The back beat was in many styles growing up in the early to mid 20th C. The lines between genres were porous, and musicians would play a wide variety of songs.  A guy's gotta make a living, and it was the 60s kids who got into being purist and authentic about whatever style they favored. What we perceive in our day as a very different style might only be a difference in instrumentation.  The song is very much the same, but this one has a fiddle and that one has horns and that one has an accordion. Rock music doesn't have accordions, and yet...sometimes you can make the switch in your head and hear the lack of difference. Drum/no drum.  Electric bass/upright. Steel guitar/accordion. The feel is different, but...

So there are rabbit holes everywhere.  I reject few or none, but do think it is worth having perspective.  Bob Wills might say what he was playing in 1957 wasn't any different than what he was playing in 1937, and there are some "truth elements" as we say about that, he was mostly just being a prick and it's not true.

The lead-in influences were themselves hybrids, more often based on marketing than on similarity. Country music and Western music had some mutual influence, but it was mostly a product of record labels and the effect of the early 40s ASCAP/BMI conflict. They were different. Country (and folk) did not influence rock all that much. Western Swing a whole lot. Rhythm & Blues became a style of mutual influence, but it got its name because people were no longer comfortable calling it "race music." Record labeling and concert venues again.  "Rhythm" was a catch-all for all those jives and jumps and hokum and "blues" was - it's own history, maybe as complicated as rock's. Not the same, but the same people produced their records, because those were the folks who would touch that.

So R&B&Western Swing all together here each of those based on other styles in their turn, performed about four years earlier than this (1946) at minimum. But Rock 'N Roll supposedly didn't come along until 1952, 1954. Sometimes it's not just the musical style solidifying, it is our understanding of the style that lags behind the innovation.

Don't believe me? After you pick up the beat and the tune, start humming "When the clock strikes two, three, and four, If the band slows down we'll yell for more."

Saturday, October 02, 2021

207, 603, 802 Vacations

A repost from almost two years ago.  I saw a woman at the supermarket today who had a shirt with a NH outline, inside of which was the single word "home."  She told me where i could find them, and we had a l9vely conversation.  It reminded me of my theory of what LL Bean should have marketed decades ago.  If i could go back, I would tell them.  Time travel shouldn't only be about getting Grady Little to take Pedro Martinez out in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2003 or buying Intel stock in 1972.  You have to help other folks as well.


There was a New Yorker cartoon in the 1980's of one telephone operator telling another "We're going to vacation in 802, 603, and 207 this year." LL Bean missed a trick back then when they didn't start with a line of shirts that had "207" to replace the Izod alligator or the Polo player. Alternatively, they could have had the numbers running down the sleeve.  It would be a minor in joke that people could wear outside of New England, with only those in the know getting the reference.  They could have broken out a new one every year or so, adding 802, then moving on to 603. After that it would have gotten more debatable.  You could have 508 and 413 (Cape Cod and the Berkshires) in Massachusetts, but even though there are some legit New England boatsy places in 978 - Gloucester, Cape Ann - or 781- Scituate, Hingham - the entirety of those areas would not be very LL Bean in image. They would be very LL Bean in market, though. You could get away with 401, Rhode Island, I think. Maybe it should harm the brand, but it wouldn't have. After a long wait and making them suffer for it, they could have let Connecticut, 203, into the club. 518 because of the Adirondacks?  Maybe.

Along the way they could have gone for a real inside reference by coming out with 709, then 902, then 506 emblems on the shirts.  These are the original area codes of the Canadian Maritimes, reinforcing Maine's otherness and connection to them.  I would have loved to have had a shirt with a little 902 over the breast, watching people squint and scowl trying to figure that one out.  I would have bought them for the whole family. When the boys went south to go to college, new 603 shirts would have to be packed. 418, the original area code for eastern Quebec could have been used, but none of the others in that province.  Mainers wouldn't want to hurt their feelings though, as half of Quebec drives down to vacation at York Beach every summer, and they need the money. That would have to be the end of it.  The authorities in Freeport would have to freeze the list at that point.

Yes NH does have beaches along that small stretch, and quite important to us because there are only a few miles of good sand.  But the water is cold, cold, even in August.  No one (well, Canadians, but please) comes to NH or Maine for the beaches.  To get warmer water and a lot of beach you have to get to the southern side of Cape Cod. That's not what LL Bean is selling. They do sell "swimwear," but it's not the tanning and eye-catching variety. This follows their marketing pattern.  They also sell underwear, but the category is called "base layers."

Vacationing in northern New England is almost year 'round, leaving out April and May, but there are differences that stretch back over a century which are still influences.  All three have skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skating and ice fishing. NH gets the bulk of winter climbers and ice climbers, but Maine and Vermont have them also. All of those activities support breakfast restaurants, and you can still get baked beans at a lot of them.* That's all very similar. But Vermont has Inns, New Hampshire has grand hotels, Maine has remote hunting camps and big summer houses along the rocky coast. Those are very different flavors. Lakes houses took off in all three after the war, yet still haven't made everything the same. The big hotels had full restaurants, with wine lists and 3-5 courses, and many still operate.  The Vermont Inns had smaller dining rooms and menus, even fixed menus until recently, when that would be unsustainable. The Maine coastal mansions had their own kitchens and even servants to make the meals.  Restaurants would still spring up around town, because not everyone was going to entertain for twelve, but these were lunchier, beachier affairs. Lobster rolls, clams, hot dogs.  For remote hunting camps, those big spenders were hiring pilots, guides, and cooks.  Those places needed a fair number of maintenance men as well.  Each of those different summer and fall vacations provides a different array of jobs for the locals. Outsiders bring in money, but it's different money.

*Baked beans are traditional since colonial days. That's what "pease porridge" was, nine days old. But they were also a staple of logging camps, where workers could burn through 9000 calories a day.  The theory was that the flapjacks and syrup were good for immediate energy, eggs started to feed you in the late morning, meat got you through most of the afternoon, and the slow-digesting beans were needed to keep you on your feet in the late afternoon. Hikers will still order them. If you are up here visiting, you should have the beans for breakfast at least once, just for bragging.

Was She Prettier Than I?

The cast albums do not capture the poignancy necessary for this song.

A second listening might be even better than the first.

Memory Tricks

I have discussed memory a bit, that we do not remember remote events anywhere near as well has we think we do and some of the reasons for that, but i don't think I have ever shared my little tricks on the matter.

When you can't find something and have looked in all the good places, do not then proceed to the medium-good possibilities.  It won't be there, and that method will simply reinforce the incorrect memory tracks that didn't work the first time.  You will find yourself looking at those "really good places" six or seven times while you are checking the medium good ones.  Look in the utterly stupid places instead.  Look under the car.  Look in the refrigerator.  Pull out the paper slips for your financial records this year. Those will break the seal and allow your brain to remember the unusual answer.  "Oh yeah, I put it in the pocket of that light jacket I never wear but threw on yesterday to go to the store when it was raining." If a half a dozen stupid places don't work, you likely have to stop and do something different for a half-hour.  But I usually find that the stupid places do reveal the true answer. 

This is explained by what is called state-dependent learning, related to the idea that if you learned to play darts drunk and became good, you should always be drunk when playing a game you really need to win; or that if you stayed up late and were angry studying for a final exam, you should make sure you are angry and tired when you go into the exam. It works in the negative as well, that your imagined "best state" for remembering probably isn't and you need to switch lanes.  Obviously, if you have a routine for exams that has worked in the past you keep rolling with that, because that itself has a state-dependent quality.  Yet in the absence of that, revert to the learning environment.

Secondly, once you have found your lost item, make sure you start storing it in the first place you looked, because that is where your brain thinks it should have been.

Left Wing Authoritarianism

I have certainly written about it for years, having LWA extended family, Arts & Humanities training, and a career as a social worker. Despite the denials, I think LWA is not only real but obvious.  Perhaps that is related to the denials.

James has uncovered a recent study that puts some flesh on those bones.  I think the contrasts and comparisons to Right-Wing Authoritarianism are fair, even when I wish the data had shown something a bit different.

Restoring An Antique Commercial Cheese Cutter

 I was captivated in spite of my complete disinterest in the item or restorations in general

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Anxiety and Ideology

A popular psychology article about a recent study on anxiety and political beliefs The Unexpected Relationship Between Ideology and Anxiety.  With Ann Althouse, I ask "Why unexpected?" I have been saying this since the 90s, that despite the  accusations that conservatives are afraid and anxious and just can't handle all the changes and the modern world in general that it is actually the opposite: liberals cannot endure people not doing things the way they should given this frightening world that is falling apart and are just so anxious about that - and they project.  I exaggerate unfairly, but the core point remains.  The conventional wisdom is backward in this case - as it often is. The correlations of Big Five personality characteristics with ideology were also interesting. Not shocking to me at all, frankly.

The results are also consistent with another study using American data ... that found that people on the extreme political left reported higher rates of having mental disorders than people on the right. As I noted, research on the “Big Five” traits of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience has found that people identifying as politically liberal tend to be higher on openness to experience and neuroticism and lower on conscientiousness than their conservative counterparts (Fatke, 2017; Gerber et al., 2011). Additionally, surveys find that neuroticism is more strongly related to economic than social liberalism (Gerber et al., 2009).

The actual Finnish study based on British data is here. The data set is people who were all born in the same week in 1958, who have been followed over the years on a variety of measures. This particular study was a subset of 7,000 members of that group.

Looney Tunes Complexity

Warner Brothers introduced us to some varied and complex music with Looney Tunes, from Wagnerian opera to revived obscure minstrel show pieces. The music they had specifically done for their cartoons was often surprisingly complicated for pieces whose presumed audience averaged about ten years old.  This was composed by Mack David and Jerry Livingston, who also wrote Disney intros (Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland) and popular songs (The Twelfth of Never). 

Most of Daffy's harmony is pretty standard here, but a few bits are surprising, and the sudden syncopation as the whole cast parades in is a nice touch.

#70 - Conspiracy And Paranoia

Repost from 2019, and includes links from much earlier.  I may comment further, but there's already enough here to keep people busy for a few days.


Well, this got out of hand.  I thought I had written about conspiracy and paranoia a fair bit, but after reviewing the search bar results, I wonder if I have written about anything else. I gave up.  I may have missed the best ones.  Here is the original, 70th-most popular post that kicked it all off. As it concerns Lee Harvey Oswald and the KGB, it is likely that some of the traffic was driven by people search about the topic, not my friends and other sites telling everyone what a great post AVI had today. I wrote about that aspect at least one more time. Okay, two.

What has been more usual for me is writing that paranoia and belief in conspiracy theories precede an actual formed theory or focus. We do not become paranoid because of our experiences.  We interpret our experiences in a paranoid way after developing the tendency.  (I am willing to discuss this in the context of people under tyrannies if someone wants to go there.  I think that is somewhat, but not entirely different.) I did find some posts about that. Categories of Paranoia, Conspiracy and Blue Hats, Paranoia FYI'

The principle applies even when it is mild paranoia or mere suspiciousness. Distributed power. Suspicion and the Liberal Mind. Yet if people really believed even that much, wouldn't they take up arms?  Or leave the country?  No, that pretend paranoia is merely there for signalling, a Poetic essence.

Ted Goretzel talks about who believes in conspiracy theories. It can include PhD's. I discussed why it is hard to convince people Conspiracy theories are unlikely and unnecessary.They are too easy. The truth is harder to fix.

The object of Paranoia can change over time. You can ascribe your troubles to different conspiracies. (Yes, she has now included the Jews.) There are whole lots of these theories, pick one. Sometimes they actually are ture: Journolist. People try to create conspiracies all the time, but the more people you have, the quicker it is going to become public. Daily Kos noticed that George Bush quietly changed a law in 2007 so that he could declare martial law in 2009 and not step down.

Does our style of paranoia choose our politics for us, rather than the other way around? Does the mechanism for accepting blame and responsibility in our brains break before the paranoia? Do fiction or film increase our vulnerability to paranoia or belief in conspiracies?

I'm sure I've said other brilliant things elsewhere, but this is already well more than enough.