Friday, April 29, 2005

Mencken's Creed


I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.
I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.
I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty…
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech…
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.
I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

And so do I...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Friday Random Ten

A lot of blogs do a Friday Random Ten.
You're supposed to write down the first ten songs selected at random from your Ipod. I've learned a lot from this. Mostly that a lot of people have really crappy taste in music.
One problem for me is that I don't have an Ipod and I don't intend to get one. When I'm home, I listen to music from my computer pumped through my awesome stereo system. When I'm driving in the car, I listen to the radio. All other times, when I should be paying attention to what I'm doing, there's no music. And no cell phone. It distracts me from the really important work of thinking and daydreaming.

Anyway, here's my Saturday Random Ten, culled from my computer playlist:

Land of Hope and Dreams- Bruce Springsteen
A Face In The Crowd- Tom Petty
I Walk The Line- Johnny Cash
Tumbling Dice- Rolling Stones
Chimes of Freedom- The Byrds
Wonderful Tonight- Eric Clapton
Thrasher- Neil Young
Lilac Wine- Nina Simone
Sing, Sing, Sing- Benny Goodman
Lonely Boy- Paul Anka
Nation of Shopkeepers- Graham Parker

OK, Random Eleven...

Friday, April 22, 2005

Medical Update

It's been six weeks since my surgery and I must say that I'm almost back to normal. My left arm has mostly recovered its full function and my incisions are mostly healed.
The timing was perfect since I wouldn't have been doing much in February and March and now the cherry tree is beginning to bloom and the pear tree is in full bloom. Spring is on the way and I'm even beginning to think about my travel plans for the summer and fall. It just doesn't get any better. You can have that attitude so long as you don't concern yourself with what the rest of the idiots in the world are doing.

As Carl Bernstein recently said:
"For the first time in our history, the weird, the stupid, the coarse, the sensational and the untrue are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal."

Maybe for the rest of the world, but certainly not for me.

You Can Be Too Thin, After All

From today's New York Times editorial page

"The whole notion of what constitutes normal weight and overweight may have to be rethought."

And when they finish with that, they can rethink the notion of what constitutes high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

But then, how would they be able to justify selling billions of dollars worth of useless pills to people?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

We're Seeing Things Falling Apart

"The consequences to a society that is misinformed and disinformed by the grotesque values of this idiot culture are truly perilous. For the first time in our history, the weird, the stupid, the coarse, the sensational and the untrue are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal."
Carl Bernstein

Never was this more obvious than the appearance of Ann Coulter on the cover of Time Magazine.

When I was a kid, we used to joke about it: "Life" (magazine) for people who can't read and "Time" (magazine) for people who can't think"

Eric Alterman wrote:

"Time’s cover story/whitewash of Ann Coulter will make it impossible for serious people to accept what the magazine reports at face-value ever again. It is as if Time had contracted a journalistic venereal disease from Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and is now seeking to lower itself to their level in pursuit of their ideologically-obsessed audiences."

The Oldest Child

by Charles Simic

The night still frightens you.
You know it is interminable
And of vast, unimaginable dimensions.
"That's because His insomnia is permanent,"
You've read some mystic say.
Is it the point of His schoolboy's compass
That pricks your heart?

Somewhere perhaps the lovers lie
Under the dark cypress trees,
Trembling with happiness,
But here there's only your beard of many days
And a night moth shivering
Under your hand pressed against your chest.

Oldest child, Prometheus
Of some cold, cold fire you can't even name
For which you're serving slow time
With that night moth's terror for company.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell

What is "Blink" about?

It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, "Blink" is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.

You could also say that it's a book about intuition, except that I don't like that word. In fact it never appears in "Blink." Intuition strikes me as a concept we use to describe emotional reactions, gut feelings--thoughts and impressions that don't' seem entirely rational. But I think that what goes on in that first two seconds is perfectly rational. It's thinking--its just thinking that moves a little faster and operates a little more mysteriously than the kind of deliberate, conscious decision-making that we usually associate with "thinking." In "Blink" I'm trying to understand those two seconds. What is going on in inside our heads when we engage in rapid cognition? When are snap judgments good and when are they not? What kinds of things can we do to make our powers of rapid cognition better?

How can thinking that takes place so quickly be at all useful? Don't we make the best decisions when we take the time to carefully evaluate all available and relevant information?

Certainly that's what we've always been told. We live in a society dedicated to the idea that we're always better off gathering as much information and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. As children, this lesson is drummed into us again and again: haste makes waste, look before you leap, stop and think. But I don't think this is true. There are lots of situations--particularly at times of high pressure and stress--when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions offer a much better means of making sense of the world.

Read the rest of the interview with the author HERE

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Individuals Think Better Than Groups

"The years between 1950 and 1965 were the golden age of American nonfiction. Writers like Jane Jacobs, Louis Hartz, Daniel Bell and David Riesman produced sweeping books on American society and global affairs. They relied on their knowledge of history, literature, philosophy and theology to recognize social patterns and grasp emerging trends.

But even as their books hit the stores, their method was being undermined. A different group rejected this generalist/humanist approach and sought to turn social analysis into a science. For example, the father of the U.S. intelligence community, Sherman Kent, argued that social science and intelligence analysis needed a systematic method, "much like the method of the physical sciences."

Social research - in urban planning, sociology and intelligence analysis - began to mimic the hard sciences."

David Brooks (New York Times April 2, 2005)
Read the entire article HERE
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