Repetitiveness generally isn't all that grave a crime in pop music. For example, literally every song the Red Hot Chili Peppers have ever recorded is just Anthony Kiedis saying "Llama gamma busy hella fizzy California" over the opening credits music from The Cosby Show, and they've been doing it for over 30 years and nobody cares. This is because the Red Hot Chili Peppers are just some goofballs turning the crank and hoping it'll spit out another "Under the Bridge," and they know it as well as we do, and hey, the world is full of people turning cranks. Much of life is crank-turning. Nobody can get mad at the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It would be like getting mad at a fry cook because his quarter-pounders always taste the same.
The problem with U2--with Bono, really, I mean c'mon, who the fuck are the rest of them anyway?--is not that their shit is repetitive, but what they are repeating (neutered khaki wussbag crap designed to make you proud of yourself for being capable of feelings) and how they are repeating it (with the pomp, grandiosity, and embarrassing self-seriousness of a 14-year-old Redditor telling you he doesn't see race, man), and to whom they are repeating it (shitdick Red Sox stans). U2 is the world's foremost creator of Oh Man, So Deep faces--furrowed brow, closed eyes, overbite--on dudes who tuck in their T-shirts. My theory is, Bono starts with the face and works backward.
*Yeah, a Gawker site. I followed a shortened link and then it was too late!
This is played for laughs, but the more I think about it, the more genuinely impressive it seems. Shaq is something like 350 pounds. She's walking in heels with him on her back. She's also smiling the whole time. Maybe the crucible of sexism is even more annealing than we believed.
Today's gold medal for trollery is awarded for commandeering a Confederate Pride Facebook group. Sorta like taking candy from a baby, except babies devise effective defense strategies way more quickly.
One of the few things I remember from my collegiate readings of Fear and Trembling is the line about the privacy of Abraham's experience (it is suddenly clear to me why Cavell would have written on Kierkegaard)—like, if you actually believed that god had spoken to you (and demanded such a crazy-seeming action of you), how could you communicate that to anyone else without seeming crazy? Wouldn't you seem crazy to yourself? And, one might add, if that can happen, what else might be the case? Wouldn't the ground on which you stand seem infirm? Wouldn't it all be alienating and unreal?
So what I want to know is, what are the (non-Lovecraftian, that seems like a different sort of thing) fantasy novels in which the discovery of an unseen, unimaginable world leads the protagonist to isolation, alienation, and despair, because the world no longer seems to make sense, or to acting on faith and being reviled by everyone else for his or her apparently insane actions?
U. Awl writes: I just saw this at the other place and thought it would maybe be appropriate. Well, actually I have a bunch of questions for E. Messily about it, and I hoped putting it up would maybe make her want to answer them, if it hasn't been discussed yet
Are all of the gestures ASL? Are there points where she relies on lip-reading, or is it straight-up translation all the way through? How cool is the keyboard/rhythm part? (I got that one - way cool!)
Heebie's take: Speaking of E. Messily, everybody put your hands together for a warm Texas-style welcome for the Geebies new roommate! She's our foreign exchange student for the semester, except for being neither foreign, nor part of an exchange, nor a student.
Prosecuters doing their thing despite overwhelming evidence of innocence.
If anyone suggests that the fact that Mark Weiner was released this week means "the system works," I fear that I will have to punch him in the neck. Because at every single turn, the system that should have worked to consider proof of Weiner's innocence failed him.
The last time I remember us discussing this sort of thing, I think the lawyers' response was "Well, look. It's an adversarial system. You have any better ideas?" Now that I've had time to think about it, I think the answer is: I rarely have good ideas about structuring society. My lack of ideas doesn't mean this can't be improved.
But Mark Weiner's journey into legal purgatory is more than just a quirky local tale; it shows why innocent people get trapped in a system in which it is costless for prosecutors to make errors, while mistakes made by defense counsel at trial are virtually impossible to correct.
Anyway, my point is that this particular asymmetry in counsel hadn't quite crossed my mind so explicitly as a major weakness of the system.
There's this one lecturer at Heebie U who started a few years ago in one of the humanities departments. When I first saw him at a faculty department, I thought, "Wow, the rest of us here look really homely in comparison." Like, we all looked a bit like Quentin Blake illustrations with one anime-cartoon sitting in the middle of the room.
Anyway, today he was at crossfit, and it turns out we just go at different times but he's not new there. I thought, "That makes so much sense that he'd be part of the Beautiful People Club! Of course." Also, by xfit standards he looked unremarkably normal. I think of myself as the hobbit babushka there. Surrounded by blond labrador retriever puppy people if you really want the entire image.
We've talked here before about the problem that medical researchers don't publish negative results and how researchers don't generally make their data available to others. This article is on that beat, but it's got this interesting bit about the WormWars:
This "deworm everybody" approach has been driven by a single, hugely influential trial published in 2004 by two economists, Edward Miguel and Michael Kremer. This trial, done in Kenya, found that deworming whole schools improved children's health, school performance, and school attendance. What's more, these benefits apparently extended to children in schools several miles away, even when those children didn't get any deworming tablets (presumably, people assumed, by interrupting worm transmission from one child to the next).
A decade later, in 2013, these two economists did something that very few researchers have ever done. They handed over their entire dataset to independent researchers on the other side of the world, so that their analyses could be checked in public. What happened next has every right to kick through a revolution in science and medicine.
The independent researchers -- epidemiologists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where I've worked, on and off, since 2009 -- got a huge pile of files: the original data describing the trial's 30,000 participants, but also explanatory notes and, most crucially, the original computer programs used to analyse the data.
The results weren't entirely robust. Somewhat, but with problems. Interesting article.
Who sees a beautiful, majestic animal and thinks, yeah, I totally have to kill that? This guy, apparently.
Nrowb Werdna writes: DeathMedieval (Medieval Death Bot)
John "Tygre", in 1322, was stabbed and beaten to death by John de Eddeworth and John de Shordych for killing Osbert le Pledour.
Heebie's take: It's a pretty great twitter feed.
Economist Brad DeLong wrote a recent post on the projected effects on the Greek economy of remaining in the Euro. (You were expecting something less respectable from the post title? Wait for it.)
AT midnight, in his guarded tent,
The Turk was dreaming of the hour
When Greece, her knee in suppliance bent,
Should tremble at his power...
Because my brain is a lumberyard containing all sorts of weird things, the opening of this poem came to my mind while I was thinking about the Greek crisis. And so I used "When Greece, Her Knee in Suppliance Bent..." as the title of a weblog post. I got the "white woman in danger and need of rescue" subtext... well, whitish woman in danger and need of rescue text... of the poem, but it seemed to me that I could still use the line with... innocuity... given the context that right now Greece's danger arises from not Turkey but Germany.
A couple of days later, however, I thought I should circle back around: that I should make sure that I actually understood the literary tropes I was deploying. I Googled for "When Greece, her knee in suppliance bent..."
Here's where things get Mineshaft-appropriate. When one googles that line, the top hits after Brad's post are all versions of this story about Teddy Roosevelt as a kid:
You have doubtless heard the story of our Teddy--the only Teddy, when he was a boy, declaiming Marco Bozarris' poem:
At midnight in his guarded tent,
The Turk lay dreaming of the hour
When Greece, her knees in suppliance bent.
But when he got to the "knees", Teddy's memory played him a sharp trick and he back-watered so to speak and started again:
When Greece her knees,--Greece her knees,--Greece her knees--
And he was about to balk altogether when the teacher spoke up and said: "Grease her knees again, Teddy, and maybe she'll go." And Teddy, God bless him, has been going ever since! (Great laughter and applause.)
Prof. DeLong is modestly appalled at the nature of this joke, particularly given the era and the audience:
And I read these, and I go, like: "WTF!? The poem has Greece on one bent knee, kneeling in recognition of defeat. The poem does not have her with two bent knees that need to be... greased... perhaps so that something can be slipped in between them." And I go: "People told this joke--Roosevelt's supporters told this joke--*in mixed company* in the first decade of the twentieth century!?" Is there something I should be reading here that I am not getting? Is there something I am reading here that is reading too much into this?
Mineshaft, can you help him out? My take under the fold.
Dear Professor DeLong:
You have a filthy mind.
Not you particularly, we all do these days. But the joke works perfectly well without a sexual implication: Teddy's stuck, what do you do when something's stuck? You grease it, and it gets unstuck. Given that he's already saying grease her knee, 'her knee' must be the thing that's sticking and needs greasing. It's not a terribly funny joke, but it was a long time ago.
The weirdo knee-based frottage implication you're seeing (Californians.) is certainly pretty easy to get to, and I wouldn't be shocked if someone listening to the joke in 1905 came up with something similar: nights were long and electric light wasn't universal, so they had to be thinking about something to amuse themselves. But someone who came up with an implication like that wouldn't attribute the impropriety to the joke teller, they'd be sniggering over it in the privacy of their own perverse little mind, or maybe sharing it privately with an equally perverted friend. The clean-minded and not terribly funny humorists of America just didn't worry at the time, I don't think, about avoiding anything that could plausibly have been interpreted sexually like that, because openly acknowledging the implication would itself have been unacceptably improper.
Remember, in both of our lifetimes, the president of the US was commonly known as "Dick", and the country wasn't driven to a halt by all the snickering.
King Alces writes: I recently attended a wedding with my lovely wife, and despite going out of my way to endure it as nicely as possible, she was still disappointed in my performance enough to ruin the drive back to the hotel, and it clouded the remainder of the weekend.
The setting: A destination wedding, about a 3 hour drive from our home. We made a weekend out of it, and everything but the reception was good for both of us. The wedding was between one of her fellow board members and someone I've met once in passing. She meets with her board members frequently (they put on a convention together)--about weekly on average. They met as board members and have served for 24-30 months at this point.
So, I reserved nice rooms. On the big day, we drove to the wedding and arrived a half-hour early--early enough to get good seats. The ceremony was reasonably short, and we both refrained from commenting throughout. After the wedding (but before the onsite reception), my wife and I spoke with the two board members who weren't in the wedding (non-wedding board members: NWBMs) for a half-hour; it was a good conversation (about our pasts, how we met, dating mishaps, etc.), and I was fully engaged.
Eventually the doors to the reception opened and we filed in and sat at our assigned table; she sat next to her fellow board members, while I sat between her and a the wife of a cousin of the groom (our first meeting). Throughout the meal I made conversation on both sides, with the cousin's wife (we found that we operate in the same industry and mined that for small talk) and occasionally with my wife and the NWBMs when available. This too was fine; we had a pleasant, small talk filled meal.
Where things went wrong was when they fired up the music. The music was loud enough to make conversation difficult (shouting to one person, no group conversation possible). Two big elements struck: first, I have no skill dancing, have been told I have no rhythm or skill dancing--including by my wife. But she still wishes that we'd dance at least one dance. I've offered to suffer through some kind of formal training (since I suck at it, as she's told me). Our musical tastes are pretty incompatible, so at least one of us will be enduring music they don't enjoy for the duration of any classes.
After four or five songs of awkwardly hanging out near her but not really conversing with anyone (due to the loud music), I stepped outside for a while. Eventually, she and the NWBMs came out and joined me in the cool night air. We had more than an hour of additional pleasant conversation, occasionally joined by other people from the wedding when they stepped out of the very warm reception now dance hall. Eventually the NWBMs excused themselves to turn in for the night, and we used that as our cue to congratulate the happy couple and slip out.
On the drive back to the hotel, she told me that she was disappointed in my behavior. I boggled, since I thought it had gone very well--particularly since I'd been genuinely approving and happy for the couple. Her complaints boiled down to the two above:
1. She wished that we'd dance, even though she hates my lack of dancing ability. (Everyone sucked tonight, so I'd be just like them--no reason to feel self conscious!)
2. She felt abandoned when I "disappeared on her". (I didn't interrupt her conversation to indicate that I was heading outside after the first four or five songs.) A good spouse stands mutely at their side (or a few steps back), and smiles enthusiastically, I was told.
So, it's a minor problem that manifests only when friends marry, Weddings are rare for us, since we (and our peers) are no longer in our 20s when attending weddings was much more common.
So, Mineshaft... can I make her happier? Should I dance through at least one song each wedding, so she remembers how poorly I dance and how little she enjoys it when she's partnered with me? Should I stand mutely at her side, or just be sure to let her know when I'm "getting some fresh air" in the future? Should I escape for a limited time and return inside (perhaps 2 songs in/2 sounds out, repeat until the evening is over)?
Heebie's take: King Alces, this story doesn't add up. Either she would have a different version of the evening, or something more fundamental is bothering her and this was a proximal trigger. At any rate,the answer is not to carve out some extremely detailed peace treaty about frequency of songs danced vs time spent hiding in the bathroom stall checking Unfogged.
If it happened as described, she's having an outsized reaction to you managing yourself. Your bad time becomes her bad time. She can't have a good time knowing that you're not. That's not good boundaries. It's good for her to be considerate of you when you're not enjoying yourself, but it's not okay to blame you for wrecking her evening when you're actually trying to accommodate her good time. If you guys actually operate with this level of blurred boundaries, it's hard for me to believe this problem is contained to the occasional wedding. (Maybe weddings trigger some extra circumstance, like she almost never drinks but enjoys having a little wine at the wedding, and then she gets a little belligerent?)
Follow-up question: if you ask her during the next reception, point blank, "Are you enjoying yourself? Would you like me to do anything in particular?", will she give you a straight answer? If she will answer that question honestly, then great. Accommodate her answer and you're all set - you'll know if she's in the mood to dance with you, elbows and all, or if she wants you to refill her wine glass. But if you don't think that you'll get a straight answer, then the problem is bigger than weddings.
This piece does a nice job of situating Trump and his racism in the modern Republican party, and I'll be watching with interest to see how things look after the Republican primaries. Is he going to force his fellow Republicans to distance themselves from the racism that has been their bread and butter, or is he going to give them room to dog-whistle even louder, while still not being as bad as he is?
Nick S writes:
"Things got obviously weird," he says, "when white supremacist groups came to my neighborhood."
Good article which covers quite a bit of information. It would certainly be nice if this is true:
In recent years, though, something has changed. Energy around the idea that white people have a race and a stake in conversations about race and racism has, very clumsily, begun to go mainstream.
"Controversy about this spikes every five or 10 years. The difference is now we have the internet," Bebout says.
Heebie's take: The article is specifically about teaching people to think about whiteness as a race and construct, instead of the neutral background against which other races all contrast.
In general, I think the recent videos of police shootings plus social media of the past couple years have produced a national conversation that is...less counterproductive than conversations about race had been for the previous decade.
I've been carping my way through the first three chapters of the book, and this chapter is no different. If I'm following Paul correctly, where we end up at the end of the chapter is that the rational, authentic way to make a transformative decision is not on the basis of your best information about how much you'll value the outcome, but only on the basis of how curious you are to find about new states of being: Peter Pan musing that "To die would be an awfully big adventure," Psyche surreptitiously using an oil lamp to find out if her beloved husband is a god or a monster, and Bluebeard's wife unable to resist looking in the forbidden room** are all contemplating or entering into transformative experiences in the most rational possible way. I remain unconvinced as set forth at length under the fold.
* Other subtitles I considered: If Curiosity Killed The Cat, Does Satisfaction Bring It Back? But on reflection, that makes no sense.
** I wonder if there's an example in something by Balzac.
As the chapter opens, Paul does address the problem I've been having throughout with the degree to which she privileges the sort of decision making based on imaginative projection of the self into the future by means of the sort of first-hand information one can only get through having had an experience before -- discussing "first personal" and "third personal" decision-making, where the latter is based on information that could be available to someone who had not had the contemplated experience.
Paul opens by saying that in the context of transformative experiences it's not possible to decide both rationally and first personally, because we lack the first personal information necessary. (pp. 105-112). I'm right with her there. Then she finally addresses what she sees as the problem with using third personal decision making when first personal information isn't available:
And so we should conclude that we cannot use the normative rational standard, a standard that embeds requirements that we cannot meet from our first-personal perspective, as a guide for living. The natural and appealing notion of living your life by regularly engaging in a process of reflective deliberation, considering a range of acts with various possible outcomes, and choosing the acts that best realize your hopes and preferences for your future, cannot be rational in the way we prereflectively thought it could be.
We find ourselves in a Sartrean dilemma: when making transformative choices, either choose authentically, or choose rationally.
A fan of standard decision theory might want to respons by claiming that that we should drop this silly, romantic view of authenticity based on choosing from a first personal perspective. Edit out the first person, and choose rationally from the third personal perspective, always prioritizing the agent's preferences at the (tenselessly understood) time of the choice.
I find such a response unappealing in the extreme. I agree that we need to preserve some version of decision theory. But doing so by dismissing the first personal view on decisionmaking is a kind of disownment of the value of one's own consciousness. ...
If we want to preserve authenticity along with rationality, then, we need to reassess the way we are thinking of how to make these decisions from the first personal perspective, and by extension, we need to think about how to reformulate the structure of the decision model.
This seems to me like an obviously false alternative -- believe that first personal experience is a sine qua non for rational decisionmaking, or "edit" it out entirely as silly and romantic. What's the problem with using first personal experience where it is available to us, but still regarding decisionmaking based on third personal information as rational if that's all the information we've got, as in the case of transformative experiences? (Also, I continue to question the privileging of decision making based on first personal experience rather than third personal information as presumptively superior even when both types of information are available. A heroin addict contemplating a hit can rely on her first personal experience of how the drug feels when it hits, or she can think coldbloodedly about the sort of plausible outcomes for heroin users that an outsider who had never tried heroin might know as much about as she did. If she relied on her personal experience with the drug in deciding whether to buy more, that might be a more authentic method of decision making than contemplating the decision from a third party perspective, but I don't think I could call it particularly rational. To hit a little closer to home for many of those reading this, substitute in dinking around on the internet when one ought to be doing almost anything else for heroin addiction.)
But that's a preliminary issue. The main question addressed in the chapter is roughly (1) we can only make rational, authentic decisions on the basis of first personal experience, but (2) by definition, we don't have first personal experience of transformative experiences, they are leaps into the unknown, so (3) is there anything about transformative experiences that we do have first personal experience about, that we could use to make decisions about whether to undergo them in a rational and authentic way? And Paul proposes that yes there is -- that the subjective value to you, as you make the decision of whether to undergo an epistemically transformative experience, is how much you value "gaining information about the nature of the experience, not whether the experience is enjoyable or unpleasant." (p. 113). Essentially, the question is how curious are you about the outcome? (Although oddly to me, Paul seems to be avoiding the word "curiosity", which seems to me to be the best description of the value she's basing her theory of decisionmaking on. I'm not sure if this is a quirk of word choice, or if there's something I'm misunderstanding about the argument that makes curiosity, or novelty-seeking, a bad description of what she's talking about.) If you're the kind of person who really wants to leap into the unknown, like Peter Pan talking about death, then you should rationally and authentically decide to leap -- if not, then transformative experiences aren't for you.
If one accepts Paul's premises -- only first-hand experience counts as an authentic basis for rational decision making; specifically, predictions about your future preferences after a transformation are of no value at all in driving rational decision making† -- I suppose I can get to her conclusion, that you have to make rational decisions about transformative experiences based only on the first-hand experiences you have had in the past relating to other transformative experiences. The only experience you can rationally consider is what it's like to undergo any transformation, the experience of being transformed itself, regardless of whether you will enjoy your post-transformation state.
But wow, does this seems like a definition of rational decision making that is incredibly far removed from any layperson's concept of how to make good decisions. An appetite for transformation generally seems completely distinct from whether any particular transformation will make you happier. For one thing, transformation is an instantaneous or short-duration event with permanent consequences: however much you value being transformed, the idea that you should make the decision only on the basis of the transformation itself without considering the information you have (even if inferior, third-hand, information) about the consequences of the transformation seems to systematically way, way overvalue the immediate satisfaction of curiosity. Psyche may have badly wanted to see her mysterious husband's face, but was it really rational to discount the possibility that finding out about it would disrupt her very pleasant living situation and leave her sorting heaps of millet at the behest of her enraged mother-in-law? I would argue that it was not.
For another thing, this method of decisionmaking seems to equate all possible transformative experiences as of equal value. Become a parent? Get extensive facial tattoos? Go to Clown College? Give all your possessions to the poor and move to a developing country to live at the standard of the local working class? All of those will leave you, in some irrevocable sense, a different person. But there's no legitimate way that I can see in Paul's schema to choose between them; if you're a transformative kind of person, you want to be transformed generally, and you should rationally want to undergo any transformation as much as any other. This seems seriously flawed.
Actually, come to think, if you're a transformation seeker, you should be seeking out transformations that maximize your potential for more, future transformations. At which point I think the species just died out: people who don't want to be transformed shouldn't have kids, because it's transformative. But people who do want to be transformed probably also shouldn't have kids, because it's a pretty fair generalization that having kids will be likely to diminish your opportunity and appetite for seeking out additional novelty and adventure, and that you'll develop a sense of responsibility to the kids that will leave you wanting stability; if you want lots of transformative experience, having children is an irrational choice because it will turn you into someone who will no longer seek that out. QED, no one should have kids. A theory of decision-making that rules out reproduction seems like both a bad description of how anyone does make decisions, and a bad description of how people should make decisions.
Anyone got an argument that I'm missing the point and this all makes much more sense than I'm appreciating? I believe there's likely to be one, but I am completely failing to see it.
† This one I still really don't get. If I have good reason (testimonial evidence from people/vampires I trust) to believe that I will love drinking blood after I become a vampire, why does the fact that drinking blood now, when I'm not yet a vampire, would be repulsive make the future pleasure out of bounds as a factor to be considered on the plus side of becoming a vampire? Sometimes it seems as if the only reason Paul thinks that sort of information shouldn't be considered is that the information is unreliable as second-hand, but she also seems to consider it categorically inappropriate as a basis for decision making. I find this baffling.