Sunday, September 21, 2008

Goodbye, Yankee Stadium

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/21/2008 08:33:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Friday Photography: Big City Little League

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

Location: Murphy Field,
Manhattan, New York City

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House / Saint George and the Dragon / Fountain of Life / Dormer / Rusty Car / Sailboat

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/01/2008 11:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

(3089/898) Tolkien on language

2438) [N]o language is justly studied merely as an aid to other purposes. It will in fact better serve other purposes, philological or historical, when it is studied for love, for itself. [...] For myself I would say that more than the interest and uses of the study of Welsh as an adminicle of English philology, more than the practical linguist's desire to acquire a knowledge of Welsh for the enlargement of his experience, more even than the interest and worth of the literature, older and newer, that is preserved in it, these two things seem important: Welsh is of this soil, this island, the senior language of the men of Britain; and Welsh is beautiful.

I will not attempt to say now what I mean by calling a language as a whole 'beautiful,' nor in what ways Welsh seems to me beautiful; for the mere recording of a person and if you will subjective perception of strong aesthetic pleasure in contact with Welsh, heard or read, is sufficient for my conclusion.

The basic pleasure in the phonetic elements of a language and in the style of their patterns, and then in a higher dimension, pleasure in the association of these word-forms with meanings, is of fundamental importance. This pleasure is quite distinct from the practical knowledge of a language, and not the same as an analytic understanding of its structure. It is simpler, deeper-rooted, and yet more immediate than the enjoyment of literature. Thought it may be allied to some of the elements in the appreciation of verse, it does not need any poets, other than the nameless artists who composed the language. It can be strongly felt in the simple contemplation of vocabulary, or even in a string of names.

[...] Most English-speaking people, for instance, will admit that cellar door is 'beautiful,' especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful that, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful, Well then, in Welsh, for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.

The nature of this pleasure is difficult, perhaps impossible, to analyse. It cannot, of course, be discovered by structural analysis. No analysis will make one either like or dislike a language, even if it make more precise some of the features of style that are pleasing or distasteful. The pleasure is possibly felt most strongly in the study of a 'foreign' or second-learned language; but if so that may be attributed to two things: the learner meets in the other language desirable features that his own first-learned speech has denied to him; and in any case he escapes from the dulling of usage, especially inattentive usage.

[...] My cradle-tongue was English (with a dash of Afrikaans). French and Latin together were my first experience of second-learned language. Latin [...] seemed so normal that pleasure or distaste was equally inapplicable. French has given to me less of this pleasure than any other language with which I have sufficient acquaintance for this judgement. The fluidity of Greek, punctuated by hardness, and with its surface glitter, captivated me, even when I met it first only in Greek names, of history or mythology, and I tried to invent a language that would embody the Greekness of Greek (so far as it came through that garbled form); but part of the attraction was antiquity and alien remoteness (from me); it did not touch home. Spanish came my way by chance and greatly attracted me. It gave me strong pleasure, and still does - far more than any other language. [...]

Gothic was the first to take me by storm, to move my heart. It was the first of the old Germanic languages I ever met. [...] I have, in this peculiar sense, studied ('tasted' would be better) other languages since. Of all save one among them the most overwhelming pleasure was provided by Finnish, and I have never quite got over it.

[...] It would not be much use if I tried to illustrate by examples the pleasure that I got [from Medieval Welsh]. For, of course, the pleasure is not solely concerned with any word, any 'sound-pattern + meaning' by itself, but with its fitness also to a whole style. Even single notes of a large music may please in their place, but one cannot illustrate this pleasure (not even to those who have once heard the music) by repeating them in isolation. It is true that language differs from any 'large music' in that its whole is never heard, or at any rate is not heard through in a single period of concentration, but is apprehended from excerpts and examples. But to those who know Welsh at all a selection of words would seem random and absurd; to those who do not it would be inadequate under the lecturer's limitations, and if printed unnecessary.

Perhaps I might say just this - for it is not an analysis of Welsh, or of myself, that I am attempting, but an assertion of a feeling of pleasure, and of satisfaction (as of a want fulfilled) - it is the ordinary words for ordinary things that in Welsh I find so pleasing. [...] A translation is of no avail. For this pleasure is felt most immediately and acutely in the moment of association: that is in the reception (or imagination) of a word-form, which is felt to have a certain style, and the attribution to it of a meaning which is not received through it.
J.R.R. Tolkien
"English and Welsh" (lecture, 10/21/55)
Angles and Britons: O'Donnell Lectures (1963) and
The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983)
[Note: In a thread of messages (c.4/1/1997) on the Usenet newsgroup alt.usage.english (AUE), other suggestions were made of words that were considered "pretty" and "ugly":

Pretty: boondoggle, brook, Cambodia, cinnamon, clarity, crystal, crystalline, curmudgeon, ephemeral, floofy, fox, huge, moose, porcine, tequila.

Ugly: amenorrhea, autochthonous, carcass, cunt, diarrhea, doiley, drudge, dungeon, epistle, fungus, garter, Gingrich, kumquat, loquat, moist, mucus, peeve, phlegm, prepubescent, smegma, split, splotch, swing, synecdoche, syzygy, yarn.

As may be apparent from this list, it is very hard to evaluate the sound of a word divorced from its meaning, especially when the connotations are negative. Reference was also made in this thread to the Monty Python sketch in which "good" words were said to be "woody", and "bad" ones "tinny".]
2439) Wars are not favourable to delicate pleasures.
J.R.R. Tolkien
"A Secret Vice" (lecture, 1931)
The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 293 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2008 09:40:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) From the New York Review

2431) [T]he ability to harbor a certain amount of irony towards one object of study [...] enables you to remain at a critical distance, which is after all the gift of the true scholar.
Umberto Eco
"Murder in Chicago" in
New York Review of Books (4/10/1997)
[review of Eros, Magic and the Murder of
Professor Colianu
by Ted Anton]

2432) Without the trust of the people, no government can stand.
Analects 12/7
The Analects of Confucius
(trans. Simon Leys, 1996)
quoted by Jonathon Spence in
"What Confucius Said" in
New York Review of Books (4/10/1997)

2433) One may rob an army of its commander-in-chief; one cannot deprive the humblest man of his free will.
Analects 9/26
The Analects of Confucius
(trans. Simon Leys, 1996)
quoted by Jonathon Spence in
"What Confucius Said" in
New York Review of Books (4/10/1997)

2434) [Education] is not simply a technical business of well-managed information processing, nor even simply a matter of applying "learning theories" to the classroom or using the results of subject-centered" achievement testing." It is a complex pursuit of fitting culture to the needs of its members and their ways of knowing to the needs of the culture.
Jerome Bruner
The Culture of Education (1997)
quoted by Clifford Geertz in
"Learning With Bruner" in
New York Review of Books (4/10/1997)

What does labor want?
We want more schoolhouses and less jails,
More books and less guns,
More learning and less vice,
More leisure and less greed,
More justice and less revenge,
We want more opportunities to cultivate our better nature.
Samuel Gompers
excerpt from a speech, inscribed on
a statue in San Antonio, Texas
quoted by Freeman Dyson in
"Can Science Be Ethical" in
New York Review of Books (4/10/1997)

2436) To protect the workers in their inalienable rights to a higher and better life; to protect them, not only as equals before the law, but also in their health, their homes, their firesides, their liberties as men, as workers, as citizens; to overcome and conquer prejudices and antagonism; to secure to them the right to life, and the opportunity to maintain that life; the right to be full sharers in the abundance which is the result of their brain and brawn, and the civilization of which they are the founders and the mainstay [...] The attainment of these is the glorious mission of the trade unions.
Samuel Gompers
speech (1898) [B16]

2437) In public discussions of biotechnology today, the idea of improving the human race by artificial means is widely condemned. The idea is repugnant because it conjures up visions of Nazi doctors sterilizing Jews and killing defective children. There are many good reasons for condemning forced sterilization and euthanasia. But the artificial improvement of human beings will come, one way or another, whether we like it or not, as soon as the progress of biological understanding makes it possible. When people are offered technical means to improve themselves and their children, no matter what they conceive improvement to mean, the offer will be accepted. Improvement may mean better health, longer life, a more cheerful disposition, a stronger heart, a smarter brain, the ability to earn more money as a rock star or baseball player or business executive. The technology of improvement may be hindered or delayed by regulation, but it cannot be permanently suppressed. Human improvement, like abortion today, will be officially disapproved, legally discouraged, or forbidden, but widely practiced. It will be seen by millions of citizens as a liberation from past constraints and injustices. Their freedom to choose cannot be permanently denied.
Freeman Dyson
"Can Science Be Ethical"
New York Review of Books (4/10/1997)

[B16] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th edition (1993)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 293 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2008 08:50:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Friday Photography: Sailboat

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

Location: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House / Saint George and the Dragon / Fountain of Life / Dormer / Rusty Car

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/25/2008 03:54:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, March 24, 2008

(3089/898) Quick takes: Religion

Ambrose Bierce
2411) Religion. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Ambrose Bierce
The Devil's Dictionary (1911) [CQ]

2412) All religions have based morality on obedience, that is to say, on voluntary slavery. That is why they have always been more pernicious than any political organization. For the latter makes use of violence, the former – of the corruption of the will.
Alexander Herzen
From the Other Shore (1855) [CQ]

2413) To know a person's religion we need not listen to his profession of faith but must find his brand of intolerance.
Eric Hoffer
The Passionate State of Mind (1955) [CQ]

2414) You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of religion. [...] Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, intelligent enough.
Aldous Huxley
"Amor Fati" in
Texts and Pretexts (1932) [CQ]

2415) There is noting more innately human than the tendency to transmute what has become customary into what has been divinely ordained.
Suzanne Lafolette
"The Beginnings of Emancipation" in
Concerning Women (1926) [CQ]

2416) All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
Thomas Paine
The Age of Reason (1794) [CQ]

2417) The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.
Salman Rushdie
"Is Nothing Sacred?" (lecture) (2/6/1990) [CQ]

2418) The main business of religions is to purify, control and restrain that excessive and exclusive taste for well-being which men acquire in times of equality.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America (1840) [CQ]

2419) I cannot see how any man of any large degree of humorous perception can ever be religious – except he purposely shut the eyes of his mind & keep them shut by force.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Mark Twain's Notebooks and Journals (c.1888) [CQ]

2420) Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.
Oscar Wilde
"Phrases and Prophecies for the Use of the Young" in
Chameleon (12/1894)
[Note: cf. #1038 Feibleman]
2421) Old religious factions are volcanoes burnt out.
Edmund Burke
"Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians" in
The Works (1812)
L. Ron Hubbard, scrience fiction writer and inventor of Scientology
2422) If you want to make a million [...] the quickest way is to start your own religion.
L. Ron Hubbard
speech to the Eastern Science Fiction Assoc. (1947)
quoted in L. Ron Hubbard (1987)
by B. Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. [ODQ]

2423) To become a popular religion, it is only necessary for a superstition to enslave a cult.
Dean Inge
Outspoken Essays (1920) [WHO]

2424) The religion of one seems madness unto another.
Sir Thomas Browne
Hydriotaphia (1658) [MAC]

2425) There are only two things in which the false professors of all religions have agreed: to persecute all other sects, and to plunder their own.
C.C. Colton
Lacon (1820) [MAC]

2426) A religious system is an assemblage of guesses.
Meditations on Wall Street (1940) [MAC]

2427) Religion has brought forth criminal and impious deeds. [...] How many evils has religion caused.
De Rerum Natura (c. 45 BC) [MAC]

2428) Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
Blaise Pascal
Pensees (c. 1660) [MAC]

2429) The more religious a country is, the more crimes are committed in it.
Napoleon Bonaparte
to Gaspar Gourgaud (1/28/1817) [MAC]
2430) The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.
Philosophical Dictionary (1764) [MAC]


[CQ] - The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993)
[ODQ] - The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 4th edition (1992)
[MAC] - The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases (1948)
[WHO] - Who Said What (1993)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 301 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/24/2008 10:03:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Friday Photography: Rusty Car

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel (1995)

Location: Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

see also: Photographer at Work

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House / Saint George and the Dragon / Fountain of Life / Dormer

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/19/2008 09:05:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, March 16, 2008

(3089/898) Hughes: The Culture of Complaint (2)

2398) Much mud has been stirred up by the linkage of multiculturalism with political correctness. This has turned what ought to be a generous recognition of cultural diversity into a worthless symbolic program, clogged with lumpen-radical jargon. Its offshoot is the rhetoric of cultural separatism.

But separatism is not, as some conservatives insist, the inevitable result of multiculturalism. The two are in fact opposites.

Multiculturalism asserts that people with different roots can co-exist, that they can learn to read the image-banks of others, that they can and should look across the frontiers of race, language, gender and age without prejudice or illusion, and learn to think against the background of a hybridized society. It proposes - modestly enough - that some of the most interesting things in history and culture happen at the interface between cultures. It wants to study border situations, not only because they are fascinating in themselves, but because understanding them may bring with it a little hope for the world.

Separatism denies the value, even the possibility, of such a dialogue. It rejects exchange. It is multiculturalism gone sour, fragmented by despair and resentment, and (in America, if not in Bosnia-Herzegovina or the Middle-East) it seems doomed to fail. To use the cultural consequences of American diversity as a tool for breaking the American polity only breaks the tool itself.
Robert Hughes
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2399) [Y]ou can't see other cultures well until, through knowing your own, you reach a point where inclusiveness means something. Otherwise you're left with mere indecisive mush.
Robert Hughes
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2400) The future of American [elites], in a globalized economy without a Cold War, will lie with people who can think and act with informed grace across ethnic, cultural, [and] linguistic lines. [...] In the world that is coming, if you can't navigate difference, you've had it.
Robert Hughes
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2401) [The] clamorous dismissals and swooping assertions [of some historical revisionists] are in fact caricatural reductions of what the great revisionary gestures of feminism, subaltern or black studies, and anti-imperialist resistance originally intended, For such gestures it was never a matter of replacing one set of authorities and dogmas with another, nor of substituting one center for another. It was always a matter of opening and participating in a central strand of intellectual and cultural effort and of showing what had always been, though indiscernable, a part of it, like the work of women, or of blacks [...] but which had been either denied or derogated.
Edward Said
"The Politics of Knowledge" in
Raritan (Summer 1991)
quoted by Robert Hughes in
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2402) The need for absolute goodies and absolute baddies runs deep in us, but it drags history into propaganda and denies the humanity of the dead: their sins, their virtues, their efforts, their failures. To preserve complexity, and not flatten it under the weight of anachronistic moralizing, is part of the historian's task.
Robert Hughes
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2403) [T]he [American] West is archetypally the place where Big Government is distrusted, the land of the independent man going it alone. Yet much of it - states like Arizona, for instance - has depended, not marginally or occasionally, but always and totally, on Federal money from Washington for its economic existence. The Southwestern states could never have been settled at their present human density without immense expenditure of government funds on water-engineering. They are less the John Wayne than the Welfare Queen of American development.
Robert Hughes
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2404) All American migrant groups draw cultural identity, and a measure of spiritual strength, from a sense of their original roots - in Sicily or the Ionian Islands, in Ireland or Cuba, and in Africa. In longing for the womb they also sentimentalize and stereotype their origins; this, as any outsider who has attended a full-blast Irish beano in Boston can testify, is a powerful tribal instinct. But it ought to be recognized that the "Africa," the imagined entity of which Afrocentrists like to speak, is very largely a construction of this kind - a lost maternal paradise.

American blacks, no less than whites, belong to, and are shaped by American culture, to which they have so immensely contributed and into which their own imaginations and deeds are inextricably wound: all they have in common with African blacks is their genes and, in the case of African states that were once English colonies, the English language. To imagine that the cultural experience of an American black resembles that of a citizen of Zanzibar or Uganda or South Africa, beyond the basic fact that both have suffered the corrosive and demeaning effects of white racism, is fanciful.

[...] The idea that African-Americans have a place waiting for them in some generalized "Africa," in any but a vaguely metaphorical sense, is mere cultural demagogy. Neither black nor white can "go home again," except as tourists; their mutual home, with all its ideals, opportunities, conflicts and evils, is America, and they have no other.
Robert Hughes
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2405) Africa, Islam, and Europe all participated in black slavery, enforced it, profited from its miseries. But in the end, only Europe (including, here, North America) proved itself able to conceive of abolishing it; only the immense moral and intellectual force of the Enlightenment, brought to bear on the hideous oppression that slavery represented, was able - unevenly, and with great difficulty - to bring the trade to an end. That we now have so-called historians who are prepared to glass over this fact strikes me as remarkable. But then, in these latitudes, neither Occam's Razor nor the notion that the burden of proof rests on the person making the assertion has any force.

For here we come up against a cardinal rule of the PC attitude to oppression studies, Whatever a white European male historian or witness had to say must be suspect; the utterances of the oppressed person or group deserve instant credence, even if they're thee merest assertion. Now the claims of the victim do have to be heard, because they may cast new light on history, But they have to pass exactly the same tests as anyone else's, or debate fails and truth suffers. The PC cover for this is the idea that all statements about history are expressions of power: history is only written by the winners and truth is political and unknowable, unless some victim knows it in his or her bones.
Robert Hughes
"Multi-Culti and Its Discontents"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2406) Once law and morality are confused it is easy to arrive at such statements as "whatever is good ought to be legislated." That premise is band enough [but] the mixing up of the realm of law with the realm of morals, is deadly ... Law can tolerate evils that morality condemns [...] We have a good law if it will be obeyed, if it is enforceable, and if it is so prudently drafted that it avoids most of the harmful effects that could flow from it. If the law does none of these things it is a bad law, no matter what the logic or the moral intensity behind it.
Rev. Thomas Healy
President of the New York Public Library
testifying before the House Subcommittee
on Postsecondary Education (11/1989),
from Culture Wars: Documents from the
Recent Controversies in the Arts
quoted by Robert Hughes in
"Moral in Itself: Art and the Therapeutic Fallacy"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2407) [N]ature films [are] electronic wallpaper for the ecologically concerned, known to skeptics in the [television] trade as "bugs fucking to Mozart."
Robert Hughes
"Moral in Itself: Art and the Therapeutic Fallacy"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2408) Americans, though among the lightest taxed people on earth, are notoriously resistant to the adage that there is no civilization without taxation.
Robert Hughes
"Moral in Itself: Art and the Therapeutic Fallacy"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2409) Democracy's task in the field of art is to make the world safe for elitism. Not an elitism based on race or money or social position, but on skill and imagination. The embodiment of high ability and intense vision is the only thing that makes art popular. [...] The greatest spectacles in America are elitist to the core: football games, baseball games, basketball, and professional tennis. [...] Like sport, art is an arena in which elitism can display itself at a negligible cost in social harm.
Robert Hughes
"Moral in Itself: Art and the Therapeutic Fallacy"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2410) It is in the nature of human beings to discriminate, We make choices and judgments every day. These choices are part of real experience. They are influenced by others, of course, but they are fundamentally the result of a passive reaction to authority. And we know that one of the realest experiences in cultural life is that of inequality between books and musical performances and paintings and other works of art. Some things do strike us as better than others - more articulate, more radiant with consciousness. We may have difficulty saying why, but the experience remains. The pleasure principle is enormous in art, and those who would like to see it downgraded in favor of ideological utterance remind one of the English Puritans who opposed bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
Robert Hughes
"Moral in Itself: Art and the Therapeutic Fallacy"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 309 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/16/2008 08:37:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Friday Photography: Dormer on a Little House

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

Location: Philadelphia

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House / Saint George and the Dragon / Fountain of Life

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/11/2008 12:25:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, March 10, 2008

(3089/898) Hughes: The Culture of Complaint (1)

Rober Hughes
2381) The all-pervasive claim to victimhood tops off America's long-cherished culture of therapeutics. To seem strong may only conceal a rickety scaffolding of denial, but to be vulnerable is to be invincible. Complaint gives you power - even when it's only the power of emotional bribery, of creating previously unnoticed levels of social guilt. Plead not guilty, and it's off with your head. The shifts this has produced may be seen everywhere, and their curious tendency is to make the "right" and the "left" converge. Consider the recent form of discussion of sexual issues, which revolve more and more around victimization.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2382) [I]t is worth remembering that although we tend to think of America as perpetually new, the fall of despotisms leave its form of government older and more continuous that any in Europe, older than the French revolution [...]
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2383) The fundamental temper of America tends towards an existential ideal which can probably never be reached, but can never be discarded: equal rights to variety, to construct your life as you see fit, to choose your traveling companions. This has always been a heterogeneous country, and its cohesion, whatever cohesion it has, can only be based on mutual respect. There never was a core America in which everyone looked the same, spoke the same language, worshiped the same gods and believed the same things. [...] America is a construction of mind, not of race or inherited class or ancestral territory.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2384) It is too simple to say that America is, or ever was, a melting pot. But it is also too simple to say none of it contents ever melted. No single metaphor can do justice to the complexity of cultural crossing and perfusion in America. American mutuality has no choice but to live in recognition of difference. But it is destroyed when those differences get raised into cultural ramparts. People once uses a dead metaphor - "balkanization" - to evoke the splitting of a field into sects, groups, little nodes of power. Now, on the dismembered corpse of Yugoslavia, whose "cultural differences" (or, to put it plainly, archaic religious and racial lunacies) have been set free by the death of Communism, we see what that stale figure of speech once meant and now means again. A Hobbesian world: the war of all on all, locked in blood-feud and theocratic hatred, the reduction ad insanitatem of America's mild and milky multiculturalism. What imperial rule, what Hapsburg tyranny or slothful dominion of Muscovite appartchiks, would not be preferable to this? Against this ghastly background, so remote from American experience since the Civil War, we now have our own conservatives promising a "culture war," while ignorant radicals orate about "separatism." They cannot know what demons they are frivolously invoking. If they did, they would fall silent in shame.

[...] The fact remains that America is a collective work of the imagination whose making never ends, and once that sense of collectivity and mutual respect is broken the possibilities of Americanness begin to unravel. If they are fraying now, it is because the politics of ideology has for the last twenty years weakened and in some areas broken the traditional American genius for consensus, for getting along by making up practical compromises to meet real social needs. [...]

In society as well as in farming, monoculture works poorly. It exhausts the soil. The social richness of America, so striking to the foreigner, comes from the diversity of its tribes. Its capacity for cohesion, for some spirit of common agreement on what is to be done, comes from the willingness of those tribes not to elevate their cultural differences into impassable barriers and ramparts, not to fetishize their "African-ness" or Italianita, which makes them distinct, as the expense of the Americanness, which gives them a vast common ground. Reading America is like a scanning a mosaic. If you look only at the big picture, you do not see its parts - the distinct glass tiles, each a different color. If you concentrate only on the tiles, you cannot see the picture.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2385) We have entered a period of intolerance which combines, as it sometimes does in America, with a sugary taste for euphemism. This conjunction fosters events that go beyond the wildest dream of satire - if satire existed in America anymore; perhaps the reason for its weakness is that reality has superseded it.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2386) If the first law of American corporate like is that deadwood floats, the corresponding rule of liberation-talk is that air expands.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2387) America has been lately full of occasions when someone prevents someone else from saying something and then denies it's a free speech issue.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

The Culture of Complaint by Robert Hughes
2388) If [euphemisms] actual made people treat one another with more civility and understanding, there might be an argument for them. But they do no such thing. Seventy years ago, in polite white usage, blacks were called "colored people." Then they became "negroes." Then "blacks." Now, "African-Americans" or "persons of color" again. But for millions of white Americans, from the time of George Wallace to that of David Duke, they stayed niggers, and the shift of names has not altered the facts of racism, any more than the ritual announcement of Five-Year Plans and Great Leaps Forward turned the social disasters of Stalinism and Maoism into triumphs. The notion that you can change a situation by finding a newer and nicer word for it emerges from the old American habit of euphemism, circumlocution, and desperate confusion about etiquette, produced by the fear that the concrete will give offense. And it is a peculiarly American habit. [...]

No shifting of words is going to reduce the amount of bigotry in this or any society. But it does increase what the military mind so lucidly calls collateral damage in a target-rich environment - namely, the wounding of innocent language.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2389) Polarization is addictive. It is the crack of politics - a short intense rush that the system craves again and again, until it begins to collapse.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2390) If someone agrees with us on the aims and uses of culture, we think him objective; if not, we accuse him of politicizing the debate.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2391) The proper objection to left-wing argument at American universities is not that it exists, for it ought to exist and prosper freely - it's that so much of it is opaque, filled with jargon and devoted to marginal issues.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2392) A college degree is not necessary for most jobs that people do in the world, whereas literacy, numeracy and basic skills at interpreting information are absolutely so.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2393) Untrained in logical analysis, ill-equipped to develop and construct formal arguments about issues, unused to mining texts for deposits of factual material, [...] students fell back to the only position they could truly call their own: what they felt about things. When feelings and attitudes are the main referents of argument, to attack any position is automatically to insult its holder, or even assail his or her perceived "rights", every argumentum becomes ad hominem, approaching the condition of harassment, if not quite rape.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2394) [T]he appreciation of art and literature has no scientific basis whatever: one is dealing with the unquantifiable coin of feeling, intuition and (from time to time) moral judgment, and there is no objective "truth" to which criticism can lay "scientific" claim.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2395) Obsession with theory, combined with a complete lack of writing talent, creates the awful prose of academic lit-crit.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

2396) In cultural matters the old division of right and left has come to look more like two Puritan sects, one plaintively conservative, the other posing as revolutionary but using academic complaint as a way of evading engagement in the real world. [...] One side needs the other, so that each can inflate its agenda into a chiliastic battle for the soul of America. Radical academic and cultural conservatives are now locked in a full-blown, mutually sustaining folie a deux, and the only person each dislikes more than the other is the one who tells both to lighten up. Such is the last mutation of America's Puritan heritage.
Robert Hughes
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

What does this sudden uneasiness mean,
and this confusion? (How grave their faces have become!)
Why are the streets and squares rapidly emptying.
and why is everyone going back home, so lost in thought?
    Because it is night and the barbarians have not come;
    and some men have arrived from the frontiers
    and they say that barbarians don't exist any longer.
And now what will become of us without barbarians?
    They were a kind of solution.
Constantine Cavafy
"Waiting for the Barbarians" (1904) [ODQ]
quoted by Robert Hughes in
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)


[ODQ] - The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 4th edition (1992)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 315 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/10/2008 11:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Friday Photography: Fountain of Life

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

"Fountain of Life"
by Carl E. Teff

Location: Mertz Library
New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, New York

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House / Saint George and the Dragon

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/01/2008 08:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Nothing to see here, move along

NY Times:

LAS VEGAS — A man who stayed in a Las Vegas hotel room where ricin was discovered on Thursday has been hospitalized in critical condition since Feb. 14 with symptoms consistent with exposure to the deadly toxin, Las Vegas police said Friday.

The man’s identity, age and hometown were being withheld on Friday as investigators tried to determine why ricin, as well as castor beans from which is it derived, were found in a room at an Extended Stay America hotel one mile west of the Las Vegas Strip.

Deputy Chief Kathleen Suey said the man had been staying in the room where the ricin was found for an unknown length of time and was leasing the room when the substance was discovered. A man, said to be a relative or friend of the sick man, had gone into the room to retrieve the patient’s belongings when he found the vials of white powder and showed it to the hotel’s manager, Deputy Chief Suey said.

Police were called by the hotel. The man had been hospitalized on Feb. 14 with respiratory distress but did not indicate to doctors that he may have been exposed to ricin, so the health district and police were not notified of the prospect, she said.

An evacuation ensued and seven people were taken to local hospitals for treatment, though they were released when they showed no signs of exposure, Deputy Chief Suey said. The hotel was reopened early Friday after public health officials determined they had found and removed all the ricin.

The patient has not yet been questioned and is believed to be unconscious, she said.

F.B.I. national spokesman Richard Kolko said the incident did not appear to be related to terrorism “based on the information gathered so far.” [Emphasis added]

This has become a knee-jerk hiccup on the part of authorities "No terrorism here, move along." One speck of ricin is sufficient to kill, and it has no other purpose whatsoever, so, please, don't tell me there's no terrorism here - it's the most reasonable explanation, and should be the default position until proven otherwise. I'm sure that's exactly how they're treating it, and they're just trying to keep us all calm by lying to us, but it's an insult to our intelligence.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/01/2008 01:23:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 29, 2008

(3089/898) Katz: Virtuous Reality

Virtuous Reality
2371) Americans have an extraordinary love-hate relationship with the rich culture they've created. They buy, watch and read it even as they ban, block and condemn it.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2372) THE MEDIA MANTRA: It's not that complicated. I can figure this out. I can make my own decisions about media, values and morality, I don't have to choose between traditional culture and the new media. I can live a happy and fulfilling life even if I never see the World Wide Web.

Whatever they should or shouldn't watch, however much time they spend online, my children are not dumb and they're not in danger from movies TV shows, music or computers. Many children - especially underclass children, really are suffering from horrific violence, and they need more and better parenting, better schools, fewer guns and drugs, and lots of job opportunities. If I'm so worried about kids, I will help them.

If I really want to protect my own children, I will make sure they have more, not less, access to this new cultural and technological world. I won't ever call them stupid for watching things I don't like. I don't have to be at war with them. I can work out a social contract with my children that protects them, guides them through their culture and brings peace and rationality to our house.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2373) Modern media companies are no longer run by powerful individuals willing to take the heat for their decisions, but by conglomerates of corporate lawyers, Wall Street analysts, directors and powerful stockholders - all of whom dread controversy and legal difficulties because negative publicity can adversely affect stock prices and mergers, or even call down federal regulation.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2374) It sometimes happens, that men who preach most vehemently about evil and the punishment of evil, so that they seem to have practically nothing else on their minds except sin, are really unconscious haters of other men. They think the world does not appreciate them, and this is their way of getting even.
Thomas Merton
Seeds of Reflection (1949)
quoted by Jon Katz in
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2375) Th[e] ancient conflict [between the forces of "good" and the forces of "evil"] echoes through the language, imagery and passion surrounding children and media. One brand of culture is good, the other satanic; one medium safe, another dangerous. The Mediaphobe continuously evokes evil in his battle to beat back the forces surrounding him - perversion, corruption, ignorance, debasement. But unthinking, centuries-old notions of good and evil bear little relevance to the cultural choices of the young. Nor do the prejudices and phobias of their parents.

Change is inevitable and pervasive. Short of the most Draconian kinds of censorship and Luddism, there is no stopping the new media and their young consumers. Perhaps it's time to start teaching children how to cope with sexually explicit imagery rather than persisting in the fiction that we can make it evaporate.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2376) A central tenet of the Mediaphobe is that guns don't kill people; unwholesome movies, tabloid telecasts, video games and rap music do. That new media are not only corrosive and decivilizing but literally dangerous.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2377) When someone offers a study purporting to show that the online culture is riddled with pornography and is dangerous to children, they are as happy to believe it and spread the message as they were to report that comic books threatened decency (in the forties), that rock and roll was dangerous (in the fifties), that video games turned kids violent (in the eighties).
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2378) [G]rown-ups all seem to lose the neurological chip that enables them to call up their own youth. The point of much of adolescent culture is to be offensive, to individuate kids from their parents, to help define their own idea and values. Popular culture has been helping them to do that for a good half-century now.

Adult America - astonishingly, including the very baby boomers who, helped midwife rock and roll - takes pop culture literally, which is the worst and \more useless way to approach it. Beavis and Butt-head are not advocates of \stupidity but ironic commentators on it. The rhetorical style of many rap artists are absorbed by listeners not as literal advisories but as more complex expressions of attitude, values and group identity. [...]

The problem isn't that popular culture is eroding our civic and moral fabric, but that we take it far more seriously than its creators or consumers do; we give it more weight than it deserves

Concerns about how much time children spend unattended in front of screens or locked in their bedrooms with computers, are perfectly valid. Good parents always curb their children's unhealthy excesses, from overindulging in Chee-tos to joining a pack of neighborhood vandals. But the notion that exposure to pop culture is inherently dangerous is unsupported by research, statistics or common sense. We lose credibility with kids by giving it such weight. Most MTV watchers are safe, law-abiding, middle-class children; they know quite well that exposure to vulgar videos won't send them out into the streets packing guns or into their bedrooms wearing leather bustiers.

Years of battles over comics, rock and other forms of youth culture seem to have left us none the wiser. We tale the bait every time. Rather than engage our children in intelligent dialogue, we simply come across as the pompous out-to-lunch windbags many of us have become.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2379) Conscience is a conditioned reflex, psychological researcher Hans J. Eyseneck believes. Like Pavlov's salivating dogs, people develop automatic, unthinking reactions. Punished consistently by a beloved parent for telling a lie or stealing a cookie, we become nervous when lying or stealing, even if there is no chance of being caught.

So if parents teach morals, live moral lives, discourage and punish immoral behavior and treat their children in amoral way, the children are much more likely to act morally as adults. If the children are left to fend for themselves, are given no such encouragement, they may grow up without a strong moral sense. A child watches the moral judgments and decisions of his parents, his siblings and his peers, and factors in the degree of rationality and respect with which he is treated, in forming his own value system.

The idea that a TV show or a song lyric can transform a healthy, connected, grounded child into a dangerous monster is absurd, an irrational affront not only to science but to common sense, to what we know about the children in our lives. It is primarily the invention of politicians (who use it to frighten or rally supporters), of enduringly powerful religious groups (which can't teach the young doctrine and dogma without control), and of traditional journalism (which sees new media and new culture as menaces to its own once-powerful and highly profitable position in American society).
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

2380) In the end, America's cultural wars are as pointless as they are unwinnable. We have created the richest cultural life in the world. Some of the things our culture creates are garish and awful, some spectacular and brilliant. We get to decide which varieties we use. We get to introduce our children, carefully and thoughtfully, to a world of one-unimaginable variety, creativity and stimulation.

This seems cause for celebration, not alarm.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 325 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/29/2008 08:30:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is encouraging

FBI opens inquiry into whether Clemens lied to Congress about steroid use

I sure am glad the FBI has its priorities straight. After all, I wouldn't want them using their resources to catch criminals, break up organized crime, or figure out who sent anthrax through the mail and killed some people. Better they figure out if some over-the-hill asshole lied to Congress about cheating at playing a game.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2008 04:49:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) The Internet Revolution

2368) Like many European capitals, Belgrade is a delight for revolutionaries because of the concentration of government buildings all within walking distance. Unlike, say, Los Angeles, which sprawls willy-nilly, Belgrade seems designed to be shut down.
David S. Bennahum
"The Internet Revolution"
Wired (4/1997)

2369) The phrase tipping point comes from the study of how disease spreads through populations. Epidemiologists have long known that a disease can hover in a population for a long time at a stable rate of infection, then suddenly leap into an epidemic, spreading exponentially. This is the point where the disease "tips" from one state to another, and if you can define what triggers this point, reducing the disease becomes much easier.

[...] Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist with The New Yorker, told me how tipping-point theory had been successfully applied to social behavior, especially crime. Criminologists have speculated that crime is like a disease: a gradual escalation in petty crime can act as a tipping point, leading to an outbreak of violent crime. What they're really focusing on in the idea of crime - more specifically, fighting the spread of the idea that getting away with a small crime means you can get away with a serious crime. Or you could look at tipping points in fields such as advertising or politics. What crime, ads, and revolutions have in common is that they are predicated on the spread of ideas, ideas that travel along slowly through populations and then suddenly break out - spreading exponentially. What is the tipping point where criminals think they can get away with murder? Or shoppers decide new sneakers are worth a hundred dollars? Or citizens believe that a regime can be overthrown? Each of these systems has a tipping point, and clever people - be they police, ad executives, or revolutionaries - have an instinct for finding that putative sweet spot, using whatever means at their disposal to manipulate it, gain leverage, and tip the system.
David S. Bennahum
"The Internet Revolution"
Wired (4/1997)

2370) There is something about computers that seems to promote a certain culture, wherever in the world you may be. Some call this a hacker culture, others simply the computer culture. It is an eerie phenomenon to witness, because it implies that people react to technology in a similar way, whatever their environment may be. The cardinal ethic that binds the users of Sezam Pro [(an online community in Belgrade)] with, for instance, users of The Well or other homegrown BBS and Internet providers is the virtue of information transparency. The idea is that a system - whatever it may be - should be transparent, its topology visible to the uninitiated. In the case of software, this means supporting the continuing role of freeware and shareware, Unix and [the Internet protocols] TCP/IP - systems whose source code remains visible, uncompiled. In the case of politics, it means supporting systems where what you choose is what you get, according to a clear, transparent process.

The antithesis of information transparency is information opacity - the inability to distinguish the constituent parts of a system and how they interplay. Opacity is the absolute prerequisite for successful thought control [...]

[T]he experience of using the Internet bolsters the idea that people can be trusted to mind their own affairs and govern themselves. It is this idea - that there is something inherent about the Net that supports democracy - that the Data Conflicts conference ["Data Conflicts: Cyberspace and the Geo-Politics of Eastern Europe", held in Berlin in the winter of 1996] had attempted to answer, an idea I had found specious until I visited Serbia. Now, with a real case study at hand, it appears clear that access to the Internet is incompatible with authoritarianism, that regimes around the world that want the benefits of the information age while maintaining a lock on information transparency are facing a paradox. Like matter and antimatter, information transparency and information opacity cannot coexist for long. They come from different universes.

[...] The question, which remains unanswered, is what percentage of a population, once wired, marks the tipping point of no return to authoritarianism. Is it 1 percent, 2 percent, or 50 percent? Do these numbers hold true, like some constant, across cultures, or do they vary, requiring a different threshold in, say, China, than in Serbia?
David S. Bennahum
"The Internet Revolution"
Wired (4/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 326 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2008 02:29:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) A more civil society?

2367) Although online culture is widely perceived as hostile and chaotic, the stereotype is superficial. Writing for The Netizen, I noticed a recurring phenomenon that speaks both to [the contemporary] sense of alienation and to the potential for community.

As anyone who writes on the Web knows, criticism comes fast and furious. Some of it is cruel - even vicious. But as an experiment, I began responding to angry email as if it were civil, addressing the point being made instead of the tone of the message. The pattern was clear: at least three-quarters of the time, the most hostile emailers responded with apologies, often picking up the discussion as if it had been perfectly polite. In hundreds of instances, flamers said things like, "Sorry, but I had no idea you would actually read this," or "I never expected to get a reply."

Months of these exchanges have convinced me that alienation online - and perhaps offline as well - is not ingrained, that it comes from a reflexive assumption that powerful political and media institutions don't care, won't listen, and will not respond. Proven wrong, many of the most hostile flamers become faithful correspondents, often continuing to disagree - but in a civil way. I found myself listening more to them as well.

We were forming a new sort of media culture. In small ways, over time, we were moving beyond the head-butting that characterizes too many online discussions (offline ones, too) and engaging in actual dialog, the cornerstone of any real political political entity. We were finding that interactivity could bring a new kind of community, new ways of building political conversations.

Of all the prospects raised by the evolution of digital culture, the most tantalizing is the possibility that technology could fuse with politics to create a more civil society. It's the possibility that we could end up with a media and political culture in which people could amass factual material, voice their perspectives, confront other points of view, and discuss issues in a rational way.
Jon Katz
"Netizen: Birth of a Digital Nation"
Wired (4/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 326 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2008 02:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, February 25, 2008

Friday Photography: Saint George and the Dragon

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

Ice sulpture by Eric Fontecchio and Alfred Georgs

Location: Boston Common
Boston, Massachusetts

2006 & 2007  —  
Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup / Stone House

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2008 10:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Why we need government

2364) The policy debate in Washington DC has been framed in extremely simplistic terms for the last two years: excessive government regulation versus our brave private sector. But government regulation doesn't have to be restrictive, and our private sector sometimes needs help to do the right thing. Government has many tools, including eminent domain, taxing, licensing, public works, antitrust laws, and codes of conduct. These tolls can ensure that individuals get rights: parks to walk in, roads that are open to all, jobs that are available on a nondiscriminatory basis - and privacy in cyberspace.
Carl Malamud
"Building a Park on RSA"
in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (10/1996)

2365) The government is exactly what makes capitalism and democracy able to coexist. Capital is not democratic. Capital and its organ-grinder's monkey, advertising, are coercive, manipulative, and solely self-interested. The government [...] is at least elected democratically. [...] History has shown repeatedly that wide gaps between rich and poor lead to instability - exactly the conditions in which capitalism suffers the most. Capitalism needs stability. In the 1890s and 1930s when this country became dangerously unstable, it was the government that stepped in and restored stability. [...] Capitalism and markets do not provide for all human needs.
Bob Klein
letter to the editor
Wired (2/1997)
[in response to the article
"Wealth If You Want It"
by W. Michael Cox in
Wired (11/1996)]

2366) When [...] engineers [...] looked at the way society worked, sometimes all they could see was infinite loops. Just open the newspaper. Politicians ensure that taxes are always high enough to campaign for re-election on the pledge to cut taxes. Meanwhile, the public complains that it wants its politicians to "discuss the real issues," which the politicians would be perfectly willing to do as soon as the public would stop caring about the first lady's haircut. The cure for this loop is the educational system, but that happens to be caught in its own loop. Our failed educational systems guarantee that students will graduate uneducated, thereby creating an even greater demand for more failed educational systems. Education could get out of its rut if the entertainment industry would just clean up its act, and the entertainment executives would happily clean up their act if the public would just stop clamoring for more flesh'n'blood. But flesh'n'blood was the great pacifier, and we needed it, particularly in hard times like these when taxes are so high. From the engineer's point of view [...] - a vantage point that they considered, without question, to be outside the "system" - society had somehow entered into an infinite loop and stopped responding.
Po Bronson
"Building the VW of PCs"
Wired (3/1997)
[excerpt from The First $20 Million
is Always the Hardest

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 329 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2008 09:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Information and data

2360) Information isn't always power - just ask a librarian.
David Brake (attributed)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (2/1997)

2361) In a world glutted with information, constant updates are not only a diminishing asset, they are becoming a dangerous distraction. Watching could be hazardous to our health. [...] Since the dawn of time, humans have constructed a quilt of community understanding out of new information. In a world of information scarcity, messenger-journalists performed the vital service of acquiring and transmitting fresh data. [...] Then information came into abundance. Data is now so plentiful that consumers face the curious hazard of an information glut. We cannot keep up with the information we produce. [...] Today's challenge is to manage the vast quantity of information we already have stored up [...] to share this information with each other, to manage it thoughtfully, and to transform it into knowledge inside millions of individual brains. This is not so much fact-hunting as it is data-gardening. [...] Journalists who limit their role to news flashes are absolving themselves of their overarching obligation to the audience. In our new world, reporters must become more like teachers, and we all must learn the skills of the librarian. Information management is the fuel for our thriving civilization.
David Shenk
"More Is Less"
"Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (2/1997)

2362) I'm convinced a new kind of social responsibility is emerging - an imperative to be succinct. Just as we've had to curtail our gaseous emissions in an increasingly smoggy world, the information glut demands that we be more economical about what we say, write, and post online. With time an ever more valuable commodity, the long-winded are beginning to resemble people who open their door at a stoplight to dump trash onto the street.

We now have the means to publish anything we wish. If we don't respect our new information ecology, we will increasingly suffer from data anarchy and social dissolution. Technically, we'll have access to a phenomenal vat of information, but in practical terms, we'll become so specialized and distracted that we'll share less and less with our fellow citizens. Give a hoot, don't info-pollute.
David Shenk
"A New Brevity" in
the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (7/1996)

2363) The twilight zone between living memory and written history is one of the favorite breeding places of mythology.
C. Vann Woodward
The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (2/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 329 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2008 09:26:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 22, 2008

(3089/898) Observations, big and little

2356) Scientific research has its own geography, with well-explored continents and treacherous peaks. Although individuals are familiar with their own fields, no one can fit it all together.

That's why a technique for visualizing such research holds such promise. Developed at Sandia National Laboratories, the algorithms will soon analyze connections between three million papers. The data is them represented as a three-dimensional landscape, where a mountain range signifying hot research issues in biology may connect to an area in physics by a narrow ridge.

What might we learn from such a map? "Connections that were previously hidden," suggests Chuck Meyers, project manager at Sandia. At the very least, a map of all research would function like a world map: it would give us a sense of perspective.
Steve G. Steinberg
"Mapping Science" in the
"Electric World" section of
Wired (1/1997)

2357) Imagine having to publish a story the way films are made. The publisher does the outline, then turns it over to you, the "writer," and says, "OK, write the story." You write it, but once you've written [it] there's no such thing as being able to take words out and change them around. Then you turn it over to me, the editor. The editor says, "Now, I'm going to put it in my word processor. I'm going to move everything around.," and he does. You get to check in once in a while and say, "No, no, that's not what I meant. I meant this." "Oh, really, I had no idea that's what you were talking about. OK, I'll put that." And then you turn it over to the printer, the printer retypes it however he wants, and then prints it that way. Then you say, "But you can't do that!" That is the way it's done in movies. [...]

The film business is designed in a kind of industrial way, vaguely the way buildings are built. The architect does the blueprint and turns it over to the contractor. The contractor then follows the instructions, and if nobody is there to say. "wait, wait, wait," and if nobody goes in and makes those change orders - which, of course, nobody wants to do because it's very expensive - you end up with a building that's only sort of interesting. I'm of a carpenter mentality. I have a rough idea of what I want to do, but I'm going to start hammering, and then when I get along here, I'll take a look at it and say, "We should move this wall here, and it would be even better." A lot of Victorian houses were built that way.... If you are a good craftsman, you really know what to do, and you understand the structure, you can build a very nice building, but it's very organic. It feels better than something that someone who had a set of plans bolted together.
George Lucas
interviewed by Kevin Kelly and Paula Parisi in
"Beyond Star Wars: What's Next for George Lucas" in
Wired (2/1997)

2358) I am an ardent subscriber to the belief that people should own their own image, that you shouldn't be allowed to take anybody's picture without their permission. In the film business, that's the way it is. If I come here with my Panavision camera, and I take pictures of you guys and then put it in my movie without getting your permission, it's against the law. Now ABC News isn't any more or less commercial than a Paramount picture, but if I come in here with the same camera, do the same thing, and give it to ABC News, I can do it. My feeling is that we should simply make it all the same: nobody is allowed to use anybody's image unless they give them permission. It's not a matter of freedom of the press, because you can still write about people. You can still tell stories. It just means you can't use their image, and if they want you to use their image, then they'll give you permission. [...] That people should own their own images, which is true in primitive cultures, is something we've given away. It's become a cultural
George Lucas
interviewed by Kevin Kelly and Paula Parisi in
"Beyond Star Wars: What's Next for George Lucas" in
Wired (2/1997)

2359) Almost every religion has a faction that leans toward the baroque. Whether Jewish Cabalism or Tantric Hinduism, these groups share an affection for complex explanations, the supernatural, and arcane rituals. This same pattern exists in pop music. Almost every pop genre periodically turns to the over orchestrated sounds and pretentious lyrics of progressive rock. Currently there is a full-scale revival. The Orb sound like Pink Floyd, while Smashing Pumpkins imitates King Crimson. A sign of fin de millenium, or just bad taste?
Steve Steinberg
"Hype List" column in
Wired (3/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 332 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2008 11:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday Photography: Stone House

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

Location: Irvington, NY

Photos posted in 2006 & 2007 / 2008:  Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower / Child With Teacup

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/16/2008 01:59:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Did you know...

Here's something interesting. I've just spent a half hour or so crunching some numbers, and I've determined that in the 23 primaries held so far (not counting caucuses), Obama has outpolled Clinton by 81,476 votes, but his edge has come entirely in primaries that are open -- that is, where any registered voter, of either party can participate in the primary of either party (but only one party). In open primaries, he leads Clinton by 1,222,739. In semi-open primaries, where only independents can chose one primary or the other but not Republicans, he falls behind Clinton by 657,157 votes, and in closed primaries, where only Democrats can vote, he's behind by 464,106.

So, once again, Obama's lead in accumulated votes has come from states in which Republicans are allowed to vote in Democratic primaries.

           CLINTON      OBAMA    OBAMA LEAD 
OPEN 2,969,579 4,192,318 1,222,739
SEMI-OPEN 3,582,388 2,925,231 -657,157
CLOSED 2,838,742 2,354,636 -484,106

TOTAL 9,390,709 9,472,185 81,476
[Numbers from CNN]

Now, that's interesting, but it's not definitive. I'd like to have some figures on how those Republican voted, but I'm not sure those are available except maybe in some of the exit poll data. Also, I'd want to know what part of the estimated 1,215 delegates Obama has (to Clinton's 1,190) were awarded to him on the basis of those open primaries, but I haven't researched those numbers yet.

Addendum: It's been suggested that a more innocuous, indeed positive, explanation of Obama's popularity in open primaries is simply that his appeal is not restricted to Democrats, but is wider than that. But, if that was the case, wouldn't he have done better in semi-open primaries, where only independents can "cross-over"? It's the combination of the two factors which is so suggestive.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/13/2008 03:11:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Quickly quickly...

2350) Zen Mail: Email messages that arrive with no text in the message body.
Gareth Branwyn (editor)
"Jargon Watch"
Wired (10/1996)

2351) Accounts of alien abductions have become as stylized as Kabuki dramas.
Dennis Overbye
"On the Trail of SETI" in
Wired magazine (1/1997)

2352) On [the] question of human freedom, if you assume there's no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, etc., there's a chance you may contribute to making a better world. That's your choice.
Noam Chomsky
quoted by David Barsamian in
Noam Chomsky: Chronicles of Dissent (1992)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (1/1997)

2353) [T]he paranoid style in American politics [...] [is] [...] the sense that all our ills can be traced to a single center and hence can be eliminated by some kind of final act of victory over the evil source.

Richard Hofstadter
quoted by Tom Dowe in
"Netizen: News You Can Abuse" in
Wired (1/1997)

2354) The confusion of style with substance is fostered by any situation that allows advertising to be integrated into its fabric and format.
Martha Rosler
"Image Simulations, Computer Manipulations: Some Consideration" (1994)
Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings, 1975-2001 (2004)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (3/1997)

2355) Say you're a spoon-hater: you're the Unabomber of spoons - you must eliminate them all and everyone who's ever used then until you have a spoon-free universe. It's not going to happen; when something's been invented, it's not going away.
Douglas Coupland (attributed)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (3/1997)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 341 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/13/2008 01:27:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Friday Photography: Child with Teacup

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel


Photos posted in 2006 & 2007

2008:  Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose / Taxi Flower

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/10/2008 01:51:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

(3089/898) Barlow: The Powers That Were

John Perry Barlow
2347) In a democratic society, it's dangerous for elected officials to ignore the body politic. But what if it has been driven mad by television? What if the duties of the citizenry have been abandoned by most of those that are still sane? Thomas Jefferson never imagined the conduct of democracy in the thrall of a mass medium.
John Perry Barlow
"The Netizen: The Powers That Were"
Wired (9/1996)

2348) That subset of Americans who still exercise their [voting] franchise -The Market, if you will - tend to be much older, whiter, and more socially conservative than the population in general. The live mostly in suburbs, shop in malls, work for large organizations, and go to church on Sunday. Creatures of a mass society, living in a culture created by mass media. Genericans. Not a bad lot, really. Decent people, most of them, with good judgment - if that judgment were well informed.

And that's the problem. For most of The Market, reality is, as I say, almost entirely based on The World According to Television. This has been the case since the Kennedy-Nixon debates and will continue to be the case for some time. The World According to Television is not a reality that arises from direct experience with events or phenomena. It is a processed world, both eviscerated of context and artifically fortified toward no greater purpose than entrancing the audience.

[... Television has] learned that fear, violence,and sex all fertilize attention marvelously, so it continually churns up virtual demons and scandals that not only jolt the audience into paying attention, but completely transform the political debate. Voters are now more concerned with imaginary threats than with real ones, and so they elect representatives who will address these "problems" without regard to their existence.

It's become a hung loop. Consider the process behind the following familiar example. Looking to raise share and beat back the future, the media raise an imaginary problem, say, a cyber-tsunami of online kiddie-porn. Out in Televisionland, parents who have already been driven into a state of omniphobia by TV depictions of kidnappers, child molesters, and Calvin Klein commercials, freak out and call their congressperson.

Of course, the congressperson doesn't actually know whether or not there's a flood of kiddie porn online. He (or she) has never been online and isn't about to go there. But he does know that his constituents have seized upon An Issue that they are truly passionate about. Under such circumstances, it takes a brave man to do nothing. So he gets together with his colleagues and passes a law that effectively addresses a problem almost no one has ever experienced, while issue forth a whole new set of real ones.

The is democracy in the Television Age, working with hideous efficiency. It is [...] Government by Hallucinating Mob. A push-me, pull-you that is self-contained and almost completely detached from anything that I would call "real." The US government has broken, the victim of television and of connection crash in general.
John Perry Barlow
"The Netizen: The Powers That Were"
Wired (9/1996)

2349) Stuart Kauffman at the Santa Fe Institute has studied "complexity catastrophe," in which an organism or natural system is forced by its context to process more information than it can. A frequent symptom of this kind of connection crash is fibrillation - a purposeless, resource-expensive quivering that usually culminates in system collapse. It could easily be said that Congress, indeed the entire government of the United States of America, has already reached this state. But however useless and wasteful I think it has become, there are enough Americans who believe in the comforting myth that their government still works, that its continued institutional existence probably contributes to a calm, however delusionary, among the People.
John Perry Barlow
"The Netizen: The Powers That Were"
Wired (9/1996)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 348 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/06/2008 01:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
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unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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