Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rush Quotes Rand

My father, tonight, was complaining that Rush Limbaugh had been overly vitriolic today.

Then I got an email from a friend, praising Rush's performance today.

From the Rush transcript:
When you vote for politicians who take from your back pocket to give to others, you think it's compassionate, you think it's caring? It's not. It's depriving the recipient of his own quest for self-interest. The brilliant writer and novelist, Ayn Rand, has written about this. Let me give you a couple quotes from Ayn Rand on this. "It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master."
Robbing Peter to pay Paul,
ends up bad for Paul, after all.

The Ban

On my way, one day, to looking up something else, I came across a description - by his niece - of James Whitcomb Riley.

Riley is best remembered today for rural-dialect children's poems - like "Little Orphant Annie".

But then I read these words by his niece:
His inescapable disillusionment in love bred in him no contempt for women, however. He disliked any expression of harshness toward them. He pleaded in “The Ban,” for even the lowliest to be found in the ranks of that oldest of professions.
Oldest of professions?

So I looked up "The Ban." You can read the whole poem and not get, at first, what he's getting at. 

But it's a poem about a woman who is walking the street in torn clothing and worn shoes, who is leered at, who is despised by some and pitied by others, but who nonetheless dreams of romance and "what I used to be."

It's interesting. "The hooker with a heart of gold" is a kind of recurring theme in literature. You could call it a cliche. But recurring themes always raise the question of why a topic fascinates many writers.

I'm not really sure
why this motif endures.

Perhaps it's a way to bring before our eyes
the many ways that people compromise
while trying to retain 
something unstained
and pure.

Why Music Videos Are Helpful Things

Those of us who listen to recorded songs, periodically "mis-hear" the lyrics.

You know, like the kid who thought the U.S. national anthem began "José, can you see?"

These manglings are called mondegreens, and a scientist explains part of the problem:
In the small study, Ma had 33 volunteers watch videos of people saying words with different levels of background noise, then had participants report what they thought they heard. He found that, depending on the noise level, participants got the words right a mere 10 percent of the time when there were only sound cues. Seeing a person's lips move improved understanding of the spoken words up to 60 percent.
When you can't read their lips,
the meaning may slip
away from the script.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Give Me The Keys

He's in the driver's seat.
The radio's playing his song.
He's charging ahead full speed.
What, oh what, could go wrong?

It Wasn't A Classic Yet

Newly released, T.S. Eliot, employed as a book editor, rejecting Orwell's Animal Farm:
Your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore are the best qualified to run the farm - in fact there couldn't have been an Animal Farm without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.
Eliot believed the elite
should stand upon 2 feet
and dole out rules
to furry fools.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's Good For General Motors...

The President of the U.S. has asked the President of G.M. to quit. And he did so.

This cannot be a good thing.
I did not know we elected a king.

Photons gathered in a ring
give the flame some extra zing.

I Blame Earth Hour

Daffodils shrivel,
redbreasts cower,
as I shovel
spring snow shower. 

Inside the Fourth Estate

Newsweek tells us about a man who used to write for Newsweek:
Traditionally, punditry in Washington has been a cozy business. To get the inside scoop, big-time columnists sometimes befriend top policymakers and offer informal advice over lunch or drinks. Naturally, lines can blur. The most noted pundit of mid-20th-century Washington, Walter Lippmann, was known to help a president write a speech—and then to write a newspaper column praising the speech.
In this last case, the inside scoop
seems to be a pile of poop.

Ending "War"

Here's one way to end "war":
In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.] Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.' "
As General Sherman said "war is hell." 

Well, let me rephrase that for contemporary consumption:

An Overseas Contingency Operation
is more or less equivalent to damnation.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Low Cost Solution

Deb Ross has alerted me to a great government program in the UK:
Two psychics from Wales have been awarded £4,500 of government funding to teach people how to 'communicate with the dead'.
We should adopt it as part of our forthcoming national health care program!

Your relatives may die waiting for care,
but psychics will help you chat with them "out there."

Spiderman with Juice

It was the first day at a new school - a special needs school - for an 11 year old autistic boy in Thailand.

Something got him upset, and he climbed out a 3rd floor window, onto some kind of balcony, and reportedly dangled his legs off the side, and wouldn't let anyone come near him. So the fire department was called, and his mother was called.

I guess the mom couldn't talk him in either.

But one fireman heard the mother mention how much the boy loved superheroes.

So he went back to the firestation and got his Spidey outfit, and lured the boy back inside with a glass of orange juice. The pic at the link shows a very happy kid in the arms of the Thai version of Peter Parker.

When no one else will do,
Spiderman comes through.

So-Called Town Halls

There's a traditional meaning:
A town hall meeting is an informal public meeting derived from the traditional town meetings of New England. Similarly to those meetings, everybody in a community is invited to attend, voice their opinions, and hear the responses from public figures and elected officials, although attendees rarely vote on an issue.
Then there's how politicians use the word:
President Obama has promised to change the way the government does business, but in at least one respect he is taking a page from the Bush playbook, stocking his town hall Thursday with supporters whose soft -- though far from planted -- questions provided openings to discuss his preferred message of the day.
The difference is all
in who's invited to the hall.

Seek visual variety,
to mimic normal society.

But to guarantee applause, 
enlist supporters of your cause.

Friday, March 27, 2009


CEI is organizing Human Achievement Hour (HAH), timed to coincide with Earth Hour (EH).

Both occur at the odd time of Saturday, March 28, 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

Earth Hour's slogan, endorsed by the head of the UN, is "Lights Off!

But CEI says:
“We salute the people who keep the lights on and produce the energy that helps make human achievement possible."
Some people may feel ecologically holy
by sitting in the dark and breathing slowly.

I feel more in touch with the divine
flipping on a light to watch it shine.

Snow in Spring

Flowers have begun to emerge from the ground, including violets and daffodils.

And the weatherman is warning of snow this weekend!

Snow in spring
is a teasing thing,
one final fling
of bright white sheen
before the green
carpets the scene.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On Vacation, Maybe

Newsweek celebratory cover story, Feb. 7:
We Are All Socialists Now
Newsweek on Mar. 24 wondering why investors don't want to buy into Geithner's plan:
Where the hell are the capitalists?
Perhaps they are reluctant to invest in a dubious socialist enterprise?

Socialist countries often entice capitalists with too-good-to-be-true offers. Then, when the capitalists start to make money, the socialists get upset and confiscate the profits.

Where did those greedy profiteers go?
Please, come back, we need you so!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


We've been watching the new TV series, Lie To Me, which makes much of the fact that deceivers do an imperfect job of squelching their true feelings.
A microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression shown on the face of humans and chimpanzees when one is trying to conceal an emotion. They consist of and completely resemble the 6 universal emotions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and surprise.
Detecting such things can be disturbing, as when someone keeps making disturbing jokes.

When he makes impromptu quips
the mask of kindness often slips
and a scowl crosses his lips.

Steering Unsteady Freddie

Obama's chief of staff apparently has inside knowledge of how the mortgage crisis started:
Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.

One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago's Rahm Emanuel—now chief of staff to President Barack Obama—who made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort.
It must be nice to get rich
while asleep at the switch.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tsutomu Yamaguchi

Japan is the only country to have been attacked by atom bombs. The U.S. dropped one on Hiroshima, and one on Nagasaki.

And Tsutomu Yamaguchi, 93, is the only human known to have survived both atomic attacks.
Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on August 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city. Traumatised, he then sought the refuge of his hometown - Nagasaki. With devastating timing, he arrived just in time for the second attack, city officials said.
Not only did he survive,
he's still freaking alive.

Supply and Demand - Not Just A Good Idea - It's The Law

writerspleasure pointed me to this:
"Economic law is the dispassionate messenger whom everyone seeks to kill." -- Anthony Gregory
He who speaks of supply and demand,
or, what is more, the invisible hand,
and why economies can't be planned,
does not endear
himself to all, I fear.

Newspaper Nonprofits

A new bill in the Senate:
With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.
Glenn Reynolds comments:
The bill will make them nonpartisan — like NPR.
Is there something stopping them from becoming nonprofits right now? Reason magazine is put out by Reason Foundation, a nonprofit. The magazine existed before the foundation did.

Many newspapers have already taken an important first step - they have become unprofitable.

We may see reporters
wandering the streets -
not looking for stories -
just something to eat.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Increasing Property Values Through Regulation

miss_breeziness and I were talking about factors that made housing expensive, including environmental rules that prohibit new construction on various preserved spaces. As she wrote:
Same here in New Zealand with the Resource Management Act...One of the reasons housing in Auckland is so expensive.
It's supply and demand 
as applied to land. 

You diminish supply 
and the price gets high.

Truly Mobile

The Washington Post:
Today, it's not unusual for the homeless to whip out Nokia 6085 GoPhones (with optional Bluetooth and USB connectivity)... 

...the technology is advancing so quickly that a simple cellphone is fairly cheap. At the Communication Connection, a store at Seventh Street and Florida Avenue NW, Donald Camp sells plenty of pay-as-you-go phones for less than $30.
When you haven't got a home,
no steady place to dwell,
just a shopping cart of trash,
your number needs to roam.

So beg a little cash
and get yourself a cell!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All Along The Watchtower

In case there are any BSG fans who didn't catch the references, the magical mystery Cylon song was written by Bob Dylan. The version they are playing is souped up and sounds closer to the Jimi Hendrix cover.
"There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief,
"There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
I was not crazy about the shows' series finale, but, hey, at least they made an effort to wrap up a lot of loose ends.

I was also relieved, 
to learn they retrieved
mitochondrial Eve.

Rand and her Movement Revisited

Several of my friends recently wrote about Ayn Rand's failings, along somewhat similar lines. This one, by jordan179, is open for public viewing. His thesis is that Rand didn't take account of human cognitive fallibility.

Of course, she would have replied that we were, in fact, fallible, that reason didn't operate automatically, and that one always had to guard against making mistakes.

Maybe she failed to keep this in mind sufficiently?

Jordan writes:
Thus we need a certain humility about our own conclusions, because we can make errors. This does not mean that we should turn to some anti-rational or mystical means of perceiving reality. It does mean that we should not assume that, just because we have induced or deduced something, it is automatically and certainly true
Rand wouldn't have cared for that word "humility", but the rest of it she would have agreed with.

I don't want to defend her every pronouncement, or her every denunciation, since I really don't agree with all that. The affair with Branden was a very messy business indeed, and I do think it's a case where passion clouded her vision. Of course, being lied to also clouded her vision.

She was irascible, and hard to get along with, and the social atmosphere of her movement was liberating in some ways, but oppressive in others.

The people drawn to Objectivism - not to the novels, not even to the essays, but to immersion in the philosophy - tend to certain personality types as well. In Meyers-Briggs terms, it's overrun with highly argumentative INTJs. 

(I'm more of an INFP, but I've overcompensated by reading logic texts and developing good work habits.)

She was complicated. People speak casually of how bitter she was in old age, but she simultaneously retained an ability to take child-like delight in things she enjoyed. People speak of how badly she treated her husband, and I suspect he was very hurt at times, but we don't really know too much about the core of that relationship - other people's marriages are typically mysterious to outsiders. People speak of how arrogant she became, but she was still capable of apologizing when she realized she had erred.

Her rightness and wrongness can certainly be debated,
but, like most people, she was complicated.

Cap Those Players!

In a funny parody, the White House decides to cap salaries at the NFL, NBA, and MLB:
“Some of these sports stars, like AIG execs, have negotiated sweetheart deals paying them millions of dollars, and yet they lose games,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “The president shares the outrage of the American people at these obscene salaries and bonuses. There’s nothing that makes the little people feel littler than the thought of these fat cats getting fatter just because that have specialized skills that are in high demand in a free-market economy.”
I'm angry that birds can fly.
Why, oh why, can't I?

Let's tie weights to their feet.
Equality shall be complete!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wait Until Dark

Saw Wait Until Dark at Court Theatre tonight. 

It's a classic thriller about a blind woman - who has to deal with criminals who come to her apartment. The film version starred Audrey Hepburn. The climactic scene is spectacular.

Wait until the dark -
then you will find
that you stumble around
much worse than the blind.

Sequestered, Take Two

I saw Sequestered again. What a difference a week makes.

The play centers around a woman who is confined to a room. "Sequestered" indeed. Part of the challenge of the play's first act is showing that she is bored out of her mind - but without making the play itself boring.

Last night the play moved very quickly and crisply.

The first act, which involves lots of well-meaning but life-choking bureacracy, kept me highly amused. The second act, which involves an actual encounter with evil, kept me deeply disturbed!

Anna Weiler, who plays the female lead, struggling for freedom and sanity, was utterly absorbing, with a wonderful air of unpredictability, as she tried to regain control of her life. Giau Truong was cheerfully and charitably oppressive as the assistant to the assistant to the assistant district attorney. Bil Gaines, as a thoughtful and reflective hit man, seemed to have stepped out of the pages of a Dostoyevsky novel. Riley Koren, as an impudent germ-obsessed maid, was fascinating with a wonderful air of being in on a secret. And Jeremy Menekseoglu was astounding as Mr. Banks, hobbling on a crutch, dominating all around him.

The structure of the play is dream-like, and the message is never spelled out, but the message seemed clear to me: All sorts of people want to put you in a box of their own making. They may do it for "your own good." Or for "the good of society". Or "to avoid chaos". Or even just for the sake of enjoying their own twisted love of power. They will tell you that you're not allowed to break out of the box. But, if you accept responsibility for your own destiny, you may be able to step right out.

Step out of the box -
the locks, 
you will find,
are on your own mind.

No Taxation Without Deliberation

I came across this phrase today, in association with the "Tea Party" people.

Our representatives no longer read the bills they vote on. Why is that?

Because the bills are too big. Why is that?

Because most of our representatives no longer accept the idea that we have government of strictly limited powers.

So they vote without knowing
where our money is going
or how we will pay
for these games some day.

Prying Their Fingers Off The Panic Button

The Republicans have, at least temporarily, put the brakes on the "confiscate the bonuses" legislation:
"I don't believe that Congress should rush to pass yet another piece of hastily crafted legislation in this very toxic atmosphere, at least without understanding the facts and the potential unintended consequences," Kyl said on the Senate floor. "Frankly, I think that's how we got into the current mess."
"Hastily crafted" is a euphemism, I think, for what they've thrown together lately.

All this incredibly rash
crap-sandwich slop
should stop.

Friday, March 20, 2009

How About We Dump The Word "Homeland" Too?

The new chief of Homeland Security testified before Congress and managed to avoid mentioning "terrorism".
Napolitano tells the German news site Spiegel Online that while she presumes there is always a threat from terrorism: "I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur."
I'll tell you the nuance that jumped out at me. Why is Janet Napolitano only talking about "man-caused" disasters?

Surely this was an error.
I admit it's somewhat rarer,
but even the fairer sex sometimes causes terror.

Which is why, to protect our land,
the TSA routinely demands
that even old ladies be thoroughly scanned.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Transporting the Prez

Here's a great photo of the current presidential limo, which is apparently referred to as "the beast".

The car door looks a foot thick!.

For his appearance on Jay Leno, NBC had to build a special structure so the Secret Service could drive the limo right up next to the stage.  The existing structure would have collapsed from the "tons" of weight.

It looks kind of swank.
In fact it's a tank.

But it lacks the cool feel
of the real Batmobile.

Wrong Region

When the prime minister of the UK visited recently, our president gave him a set of DVDs of 25 American Movies. But when the PM got home, he got a rude surprise:
The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen.
You may wonder why there are "region codes":
The purpose of this is to allow motion picture studios to control aspects of a release, including content, release date, and, especially, price, according to the region.
He wanted to watch,
but the gift was a botch.

Checking the Mailbox

What could explain the postal slowness
in bringing me my AIG bonus?

I never worked for them, but still
I could use a couple of mill.

Ready or Not

More details to follow, but...

looks like my play's on for June
which will be here soon!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hungover But Singing

Slow to love
quick to fight
ready to drink 
hard through the night.

Hungover but singing
a song next morn
of the loveliest woman 
ever born.

Her bright red hair
is his special theme
though he only saw her
once in a dream.

Guaranteed Cost Explosion

As P.J. O'Rourke once said, "if you think health care is expensive now, wait till you see what it costs when it's free!"
Guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans may cost about $1.5 trillion over the next decade, health experts say. That's more than double the $634 billion 'down payment' President Barack Obama set aside for health reform in his budget, raising the prospect of sticker shock at a time of record federal spending.
They promise the sun and the moon
for what sounds like a very low cost.

So you vote for it. But very soon
they explain that the money's been lost.

Your taxes start to balloon,
and you whisper "I've been double-crossed."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Word of the Day

Learned a new word the other day: funeralize.

You hear it in African American vernacular, but it also shows up in general rural usage.

You may have heard of James Whitcomb Riley, Indiana's most famous popular poet. His niece wrote of him:
He had once said that if any minister ever “orated” or “funeralized” over him, he would surely arise and “kick the tail-gate” out of his coffin!
Funeralizing ministers
somehow struck him as sinister.

IQ and Genius

You'll see casual statements about "what Leonardo Da Vinci's IQ was." 

It's all wild guesses. Da Vinci never took an IQ test.

My wife remarks that we do know the IQ for one modern genius, Richard Feynman:
His measured IQ was in the high range - 124 - but not what IQ test-makers consider genius (135+). Contrary to traditional thought, but consistent with research findings, most people recognized as geniuses through their work do not have IQ's in the 135+ range.
A lot of what makes us call a person a "genius" is their creative brilliance - not their general intelligence as such.

Of course Feynman started out smart,
but something more on his part
made him a truly stellar
research feller.

I Prefer To Call It "Hippo Sheen"

Science sweats the details:
Hippos can stand in the hot sun all day without getting a sunburn, and now researchers know why: a red-colored glandular secretion known as "hippo sweat" contains microscopic structures that scatter light, protecting the hefty mammals from burns, according to a new study.
So, of course, they're looking for a way to bring this discovery to market.
In the future, scientists hope to create a product inspired by hippo sweat that we may be slathering on our bodies before long. The stuff could be an advertiser's dream.
You've gotta get
Hippo Sweat.
It's the coolest
sunscreen yet!

But sad to tell,
it smells
like hippos as well.


Under a new local law, not quite in effect yet, you need to give them your right thumbprint to sell your house.

Allegedly this is to prevent mortgage fraud. But I fear the unintended consequences.

If they want to steal my house, they'll steal my thumb first!
Which, to me, is somewhat worse.

I hope there's some
exception for those
who have lost both thumbs.

Can they use their toes?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Raining on His Parade

It was the weekend of 2 St. Paddy's Day parades here in the City O'Wind. 

Our new junior senator, Roland Burris, who was appointed by Rod Blagojevich, marched in the downtown parade. He failed to receive a warm Irish welcome:
Parade-goers in leprechaun hats, green jackets and clover-spotted socks... just pointed derisively and chuckled.
People wearing green
can be so mean!

Adhere to Avoid Your Fear?

I was reading the program notes for Sequestered, and came across this mordant comment from Jeremy Menekseoglu:
To hell with nihilism, we're bokonists: Life is formed entirely of lies; but if we believe and adhere to these lies, we will live a happy life.
Here's Jeremy Menekseoglu, deep in character:

Bokokonism is a religion in Vonnegut's novel, Cat's Cradle, where adherents, for the sake of happiness, believe in things they know to be false.

It reminds me of some neo-Freudians, who think you should embrace your own (false but adaptive) defenses.

Can this really work? Suppose someone told you: "I'm an alcoholic, but I'm in denial." Or: "I will die someday, but I don't acknowledge that fact." How would you react?

I do think there's a time and place for not dwelling on negative possibilities. When you're learning to walk the high-wire, you might want to keep your eyes straight ahead.

You keep your eyes straight ahead
precisely because you know you'll be dead
if you look down
and fall to the ground.

Who's Next?

The White House political operation has decided to stop picking on Rush Limbaugh:
“We have exhausted the use of Rush as an attention-getter,” the official said.
The Washington Post reported that Limbaugh's ratings doubled due to the White House's withering assault.

Maybe next they can pick on me.

Accuse me, please, of horrid thought-crimes:
I'll double my income from writing these rhymes -
instead of mere nickels, I'll pile up dimes!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

27 and Counting

The Chicago Tribune is keeping track of killings of Chicago Public School students.
The accounting doesn't include all the youths who, if not for poor aim or good luck, could have joined the death list. The tally also doesn't include kids who have dropped out, may have been truant and not actively enrolled, or killed during the summer months.
The accounting also excludes enrollees in private and Catholic schools. I guess that's because the kill count is about zero. Probably because the gang problem is nearly non-existent - probably because they expel gang members.
In a University of Chicago study of gun violence among school-age children in the city, researchers found that the turning point for most happens at 13 or 14. Nearly half of the youths in juvenile detention were poor students who, after dropping out of school, turned to gangs as a means of support.
In schools where gangs thrive,
somewhat fewer children leave alive.

The Problem of Knowing How Good Your Acting Is

Bil, at tip your waiter, reports on the difficulty:
In rehearsals through this play, I have felt many times that what I was being told to do was wrong, that it wasn’t what my first instinct was, that it should feel more natural than it did. But I watched someone else rehearse this last week, and the other actress vocalized exactly what I felt. She said things like, “This isn’t how I imagined it,” and “I liked it better the last time we rehearsed it,” and “Ouch.”
Directors. They don't want you to act the way YOU want to act! But...
It was the best acting she’d done on this production up until that point. She just didn’t know it. It looked better, it sounded better, the character became more interesting, and she wound up being more unpredictable. And for that role, it was brilliant. And we all told her so. Of course, she didn’t believe us.
It's a sad fact
that when you act
your feelings inside
are imperfect guides
to your impact.

Debt Star Vs. Atlas

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sign of the Times

A certain goofy church that parades around the country demonstrated at the University of Chicago a few days ago. They held up signs like "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates America." They are bile-spewing group.

U of C folks counter-demonstrated and outnumbered the goofy religious folks. My favorite U of C sign:

When facing down odious bile,
it's fun to show a smile.


Marsha and I saw Sequestered tonight at the Dream Theatre, the latest from Jeremy Menekseoglu. These are just some first thoughts while it settles in my mind.

As usual, the acting was stunning.

It's billed as an absurdist play, and I saw the connection to that style, but it struck me as closer to symbolist. Why, you ask? Well, the initial situation seems Kafkesque... which fits with absurdist, but the story develops in a meaningful way, which isn't so perfectly absurd. Yes, I know, I'm picking theoretical nits.

As you might guess, I much prefer stories that develop meaningfully. So I am perfectly happy with this outcome.

A lot of the play does have a distinct nightmare quality, but it it wasn't as actively scary as some of Dream Theatre's other work, perhaps because it had a certain abstract quality about it.

Your room feels like a cell
and the maid who comes to clean
with a very old machine
has a batty tale to tell.

Listen. Listen well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wealth Creation

Barack Obama tries to reassure CEOs:
"I think there are times where sometimes our economy gets out of balance. This is obviously one of those times," he said. "And so government has to intervene in the crisis, but the goal should always be to right the ship and let private enterprise do its magic."
I find the word "magic" grating in this context. Perhaps I'm over-reacting.

I understand capitalism is astounding
in what it produces, and confounding
to socialist theories, but it's no hocus-pocus -
it's hard work and focus.

Poker Face Peril

Scientist Says: Show your disgust!
Subjects who were asked to suppress their disgust when shown images of, for example, a dirty toilet or a film depicting an amputation were able to do so.
Which seems like a useful ability - say, when you're dealt a lousy poker hand but intend to bluff.
‘But the emotion then found its way into the open through other channels’, says Grob. ‘At the cognitive level, they began to think about disgusting things much more often and also felt much more negatively about other issues.
So you mask your reaction to your bad poker hand, but then your beer starts tasting bitter.
The same phenomenon occurs in a situation where you are not allowed to think of something, say a white bear. Precisely because you are trying to suppress that thought, it becomes hyperaccessible’.
Your poker hand
is less than grand
so you keep your face clear,
but it ruins your beer!

If a big white bear joins the game,
you should keep a straight face, all the same.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Honeymooners' Homecoming

Here's an article from TheHill.com: Obama's honeymoon bliss fading.
Some Democrats have started to worry that voters don’t and won’t understand the link between economic revival and Obama’s huge agenda, which includes saving the banking industry, ending home foreclosures, reforming healthcare and developing a national energy policy, among much else.
I think
I understand 
the link.

He wants to expand
the realm of command.

The Rhyming Way

I found an old translation of the Tao Te Ching that includes rhyming sections - just like the original.  It also has the Chinese characters. I can't read the characters exactly, but sometimes you can make out the parallel pattern, and see which character means "way," for example.

I think the versification is too strained:
He who desireless is found
The spiritual of the world will sound.
But he who by desire is bound
Sees the mere shell of things around.
The chiming of rhymes
is sometimes less than sublime.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Sorry Sort of Sorry

Here's a funny cartoon where a man is looking at at "false apology" greeting cards, under such subheads as:
I'm sorry you feel that way.

I'm sorry you got mad.

I'm sorry you're such a loser.
"Sorry" used to be "the hardest word."

But if you phrase it right, the feeling's blurred
until it twists around to the absurd.

Mega Peg Leg

Here's a story - and photo - about an elephant that has been fitted with a prosthetic front leg.
Her leg was blown off when she stepped on a landmine when she was just seven months old.
Once again, she's standing firm.
It's tough out there for a pachyderm!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Trouble with the Tao

Uh oh. Three members of the book club have told me, in advance of the discussion, that the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing... etc.) is not making a lot of sense to them.

And I have to lead this discussion!

What would Lao Tzu say?

The discussion that can be led
is not a true discussion.

To lead, don't lead. Instead,
follow the open question.

Springing Forward

It's Daylight Savings Time here, and I must say I don't care for the transition.

I need to be at work around 8:30 - when my body still knows it's 7:30.

And... isn't the name a misnomer? I didn't save an hour. I gave away a blissful hour of snooze.

Daylight Savings Time
is a truth-in-labeling crime.

In fact, an hour is lost
at a deep sleepological cost.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Nurturing Inner Nature

Deb Ross writes:
My friend Peter Saint-Andre has been writing of late about the need to immerse ourselves in that which is most beautiful in order to have a happy life despite what sometimes seems to be crumbling around us. Remembering this has been comforting. It seems to me that it is my job as a parent both to do this for my kids and to teach them to do this for themselves.
Peter Saint-Andre writes:
At least, that’s my perspective: I try to understand the world around me, honor my chosen aims and interests, work hard to create things of somewhat lasting value, do right by the people who matter to me, and enjoy life along the way. I don’t see a good reason to change that philosophy just because there are a whole class of bastards in this world who seem to be doing their darnedest to destroy everything that peaceful, productive people have built up.
Ayn Rand wrote:
If you hold on to the vision of any value you love—your mind, your work, your wife or husband, or your child—and remember that that is what the enemy is after, your shudder of rebellion will give you the moral fire, the courage and the intransigence needed in this battle. (The Age of Envy)
Tend to your garden, and don't let the strife
harden your heart to what's precious in life.

Recession and Romance

Msnbc has a video report about an increased desire for romantic connection - due to the state of the market. And they titled it:
More hearts flutter
as markets sputter.
The underlying data is from... online dating sites. "When stocks fall, more people look for love online." 

"When your life is not in the right place, you want to turn to somebody who can make you feel better about yourself." 

And when you're working less, or not at all, you've got more time to make time!

The report doesn't seem to mention the possibility that a lot of relationships are breaking up under financial stress. That might also cause a boom at Match.com.

When one relationship ends
the aftermath often sends
two people online 
to find 
new special friends.

Never Waste A Good Crisis

Rahm Emanuel: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

Hillary Clinton: "Never waste a good crisis. And when it comes to the economic crisis, don't waste it when it can have a very positive impact on climate change and energy security."

Barack Obama: "And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper — to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis."

You have to admit that the President makes it sound better.

A crisis
to arrange
for change
that otherwise
would never arise.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Arms and the Man

I saw a compelling version of Shaw's Arms and the Man tonight.

The audience, which mostly didn't seem to have read the play ever, loved it. It's one of my favorite Shaw plays.

Arms and the Man
has wit and charm and plot
as many plays have not.

Watchmen - Unspoiled

I saw the Watchmen movie for 6 bucks by going to a pre-noon show.

I haven't read the book. I didn't want it to spoil the movie for me.

It's very philosophical, densely textured, with lots of surprising plot twists, and spectacular visuals.

It held my interest through
but left me feeling blue.

Honk If You Like John Galt

I saw this bumpersticker you can buy:

Will Wilkinson disapproves of the sentiment:
By the way, Atlas buffs, the point of Atlas Shrugged is not that you are John Galt. The point is that you are not John Galt. The point is that you are, at your best, Eddie Willers.
But if avid readers routinely miss "the point" of a novel, is it really the point?

Here's my view on Eddie Willers - he's the reader's entry point into the novel. He's there for exposition. He is to Dagny as Horatio is to Hamlet - as Watson is to Holmes. He is the sidekick.

The point of the novel is to make you feel "I want to be like one of these heroes."

Rand was pretty explicit about this:
In the privacy of his own soul, nobody identifies himself with the folks next door, unless he has given up. But the generalized abstraction of a hero permits every man to identify himself with James Bond, each supplying his own concretes which are illuminated and supported by that abstraction.... Nobody could feel: "I want to be like Marty." Everybody (except the most corrupt) can feel: "I want to be like James Bond."
Substitute "Eddie" for Chayefsky's "Marty" and "Galt" for Fleming's "Bond".

And so, to be fair,
I can't find fault
with cars that declare
"I Am John Galt".

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Lost Shakespeare Play

I saw a fun new thoughtful play tonight, called The Lost Shakespeare Play, by Dave Stinton:
The Lost Shakespeare Play is based on the true story of a theatrical scandal that hit Richard Brinsley Sheridan's Drury Lane Theatre in the 1790s. A document uncovered by 19-year-old William Henry Ireland is heralded as a lost play by William Shakespeare. The play, entitled Vortigern, causes a sensation in literary circles, and many - experts and laypeople alike - are utterly convinced of its authenticity.
Stinton quotes from the "real" text of Vortigern, so you get a real flavor of it, and Stinton also has written an impressive original speech in heroic couplets.

A work can achieve instant fame -
become all the rage -
if you simply paste Shakespeare's name
on the author page.

Going Galt

Here's a compilation of buzz over Atlas Shrugged - The Reality.
There’s a new craze hitting the conservative tubes on the Internets these days: “Going Galt!” While it’s difficult to identify an exact date of reference or to provide any unique person with credit for the general meme, Michelle Malkin and Helen Smith certainly deserve honorable mention for recently popularizing the phrase.
Economist Megan McArdle notes Rand's uncanny prophetic abilities:
She was able to describe these things so well, of course, because she’d seen what an economy looked like while it was being wrecked. All of Rand’s writing is dominated by the fact that she lived through the birth pangs of Soviet Russia, and saw her family’s business destroyed by Lenin’s ideology, and extraordinarily incompetent economic management.
Will Wilkinson is reluctant to catch the fever:
I can’t help but feel that threatening to withdraw from economic production, ala Atlas Shrugged’s John Galt, is a certain kind of libertarian-conservative’s version of progressives threatening to move to Canada. For my part, I can’t imagine what would make me want to stop working, and each new president makes me want to move to Canada.
But they don't really make him want to move to Canada, do they? Or he would have left by now.

No one wants to leave,
but many feel it would strike a chord,
to heave
some tea overboard.

Ninja Loans

I have expanded my financial vocabulary:
A Ninja Loan is a type of subprime loan issued to borrowers with No Income, No Job, (and) no Assets.... It works on two levels - as an acronym; and allusion to the fact that ninja loans are often defaulted on, with the borrower disappearing like a ninja.
What else could a lender do?
Ninjas need loans too!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Where's MY Teleprompter?

Obama brings his teleprompter everywhere. Because he needs to:
In a break from his routine, Obama did not use a teleprompter during his pre-Inauguration speech at a factory in Bedford Heights, Ohio — and his delivery seemed to suffer. He paused too long at parts. He accentuated the wrong words. And overall he sounded hesitant and halting as he spoke from the prepared remarks on the podium.
You know, sometimes I open my big mouth and say the wrong thing. So maybe I should lug one of these gizmos around everywhere too!

Or would it be too much
of a crutch?

Tao Te Ching Cheat Sheet

We're reading the Tao Te Ching for book club, also known as the Dao De Jing. 

One good friend told me he was finding it hard going. So I wrote up a personal interpretation of the book's outlook. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong, since I'm certainly no authority on this book. And, in a sort of mortal sin, I will say nothing about the poetry of the book.

1) Go with the flow. Keep this phrase in mind. It names the attitude behind the book.

2) What is "the way", anyway? It's a Big Idea in Chinese thought, but not in Western thought. For the Chinese it seems to be a unifying idea that cuts across ethics, theory of knowledge, theory of what reality basically IS, and even political philosophy.

a) In ethics, the way is the best way to act. Taoism is situational, so the best way to act varies depending on the situation. That's one reason it can't be specified in advance. One must be receptive to the immediate situation.

b) In theory of knowledge, the way is the right way to find the truth. Taoism is experiential, so the best way to find the truth is to have an open mind and pay attention - to have a mind that is like an empty bowl, waiting to be filled with current information.

c) In theory of reality, the way is the way reality acts. Taoism is evolutionary and dialectical, so reality spins out unpredictably, favoring first one opposite and then another.

d) In theory of politics, the way is the right way to govern. Taoism is non-interventionist, in both domestic policy and foreign affairs. Don't raise taxes, don't start wars. Unintended consequences will come if you intervene, because the opposite trend will rise to meet you. Raise taxes, people are dissatisfied and less productive. Go to war, and opposing forces go wild, leading to unpredictable destruction.

3) Heraclitus, the ancient Greek pre-Socratic, is a bit like Lao Tzu. He famously said that "you can't step in the same river twice". He believed that reality was a flux, composed of a unity of opposites. He wrote: "Sea is the purest and most polluted water: for fish drinkable and healthy, for men undrinkable and harmful."

It isn't really hard going.
Just follow the way that the water is flowing.

Be Careful Out There

The Chicago Tribune reports:
Scam artists use government stimulus package to lure victims
This is a classic technique. People feel that you need an "insider" to navigate your way to government give-away goodies. 

I don't know where they get that idea! 

So these scammers promise to be your personal guides, or perhaps your personal lobbyists, for a reasonable fee.

Once they have your pay
they walk away.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Are you old enough to remember the old "this is your brain on drugs" ad? The one with the egg on the frying pan?

Here's a funny take-off video about how "nest eggs" are doing under a variety of new government programs.

Don't worry about the expensive new regs.

After all, as Lenin declared,
when making an omelet you shouldn't be scared
of breaking a whole lot of eggs.

It's all okay if the suffering's shared.

Would Shakespearian Tweets Sound as Sweet?

Maureen Dowd speculates:
If only Shakespeare had known how to Twitter.
Then she notices that Obama has let slip his pledge to comb through spending bills "line by line":
In one of his disturbing spells of passivity, President Obama decided not to fight Congress and live up to his own no-earmark pledge from the campaign.

He’s been lecturing us on the need to prune away frills while the economy fizzles. He was slated to make a speech on “wasteful spending” on Wednesday.
Be not like those who preach of precious prudence,
but blow through budgets like besotten students!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lint Hints

A scientist claims to have solved the secret of belly button lint:
Abdominal hair is mainly responsible for the accumulation of navel lint... Therefore, this is a typically male phenomenon. The abdominal hair collects fibers from cotton shirts and directs them into the navel where they are compacted to a felt-like matter.
Does your navel have lint
with a psychedelic tint?

Don't wear tie-dye tees -
and clean it more often, please!

Beat Sweeteners

Here's an interesting story about how reporters get news - in part by publishing flattering descriptions of government officials:
In the early days of any administration, reporters reach out to the men and women who might become their sources over the next four years — then slather them with glowing profiles suitable for framing in their mothers’ bedrooms.
Reporters have a slang term for such flattery: "beat sweeteners".
Mark Feldstein, an associate professor at George Washington University, suggested that the average reader isn’t served well by a beat sweetener because he probably doesn’t know that it is what it is. 

Such stories prove that there is “this hidden conversation going on among the cognoscenti,” Feldstein said, adding that “whenever I see a laudatory profile, there is always usually some hidden agenda going on.”
Of course the average reader 
isn't meant to understand it.

Flattery tastes much sweeter
when it's served up underhanded.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Did Newsweek Misspeak?

I've been thinking about that "We're All Socialists Now" cover on Newsweek. It seems to have inadvertantly legitimized libertarian complaints that the government is moving in a socialist direction. 

I guess it was a "triumphalist" sort of mistake, trumpeting victory, and proclaiming a goal, before it was fully in hand.

By the way, we're getting Newsweek at the house this year - probably by accident. Local kids come to the door selling magazines, and my wife takes pity on them, and she thinks they messed up her order. Anyway, the magazine is amazingly thin - very few ads. How can they stay in business? Maybe in a socialist U.S. they will be funded by the government!

The media needs revenue.
I wonder if taxes will do?

Tea Party Signage Tendency

I don't know why exactly, but I notice the tea party homemade signs have a lot of Rand references. Here's a new meme-twist I've seen lately:

Some people would like
to go on strike.


Eugene Gendlin tackles a perennial puzzle in the Rogerian theory of therapy:
...many people wonder: How can one be genuine and feel unconditional positive regard at the same time? There is often so much unlovely stuff in a client, which cannot genuinely be regarded positively. But I see no contradiction because, as I formulate it, unconditional positive regard is for the embattled person in there, not for the stuff.
I suppose this is a classic strategy for resolving an apparent contradiction - you draw a distinction. He has unconditional high regard for "the person in there," as opposed, I guess, to "the unlovely behavior out here."

He believes there's a hidden winner,
deep within.

It's sort of like loving the sinner,
but hating the sin.

Buffett Bemoans His Paradoxical Plight

Warren Buffett, the Sage of Omaha:
At the moment, it is much better to be a financial cripple with a government guarantee than a Gibraltar without one.
Will he cause a PC ripple
by using the banned word "cripple"?

Maybe the Word Police will give him a pass. He did support the Democratic Party in this last election.

jwhend49 comments:
This is just one more example that the Government does not and cannot manage the economy other than to the detriment of individuals and business entrepreneurs.
If you are a Gibraltar,
you stand firm against the sea.

But if you are a defaulter,
you really need a guarantee.

Saving the insolvent, we alter
the odds in favor of instability.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


I wrote something about abduction, which is supposed to form a triad with induction and deduction.

But then a friend pointed out that we had neglected a fourth form of persuasion:seduction.

When your logic hangs too loose,
and your "therefores" turn obtuse,
pass on proof - you must seduce!

Something Fishy This Way Comes

Stanley Fish offers an economic explanation for why the humanities are faring badly at colleges:
Fish and Donoghue, like so many, claim the humanities' downfall is a function of the free market. They argue that with increased pressure to produce students who can graduate into a profession - be "useful" - and financial difficulties, universities are pulling resources from the humanities.
Once free markets are eliminated,
studying poetry will be higher-rated!

Going for Limbaugh

Rahm Emanuel designates Rush Limbaugh as the intellectual force behind the Republicans:
He’s asked for President Obama and called for President Obama to fail. That’s his view. And that’s what he has enunciated. And whenever a Republican criticize him, they have to run back and apologize to him, and say they were misunderstood. He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party.
Alinsky's Last Rule:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.
Who is the Democrat's intellectual force?
I designate Alinsky, of course.

Anger Management

We had a lively and humorous brainstorming session last night about what to do when you find yourself getting angry in a conversation - so angry that you feel your objectivity fading away.

Here's an out-of-order list of techniques we discussed:
Count to ten in your mind. Take a deep breath.

Cut off the conversation. Resume later if necessary.

On the telephone, cutting off the conversaton may even give you the chance to "get in the last word" with someone who isn't letting you talk.

Learn and practice relaxation techniques, until you get good at them. Eventually they will do some good. Release your bodily tension and see if you can visit your internal "happy place".

Plan your conversation. Know your anger-triggers, and anticipate when they will be pushed. This helps to establish a sense of control. A lot of people hate feeling out of control in these situations.

As much as possible, understand why these triggers anger you.

Accept your personal limitations and triggers. People often are extra-frustrated because they are angry at themselves as well, wishing they could be more cool-headed.

When NOT in the situation, as a fantasy exercise, imagine letting loose on the object of your anger. This may help if part of your discomfort is horror at your own aggressive feelings.

Avoid situations that trigger your anger.

Before the fact, beware of over-rehearsing for upcoming confrontations.

After the fact, beware of over-replaying the confrontation.
There's nothing wrong with getting mad,
but losing all semblance of reason is bad.