How sure they are about the past

December 19, 2012 Comments Off on How sure they are about the past

The past, whatever it was, was very different.  It — and the people in it – were so different form us that we have no way of understanding just how different they are!  (Precluding, of course, any ability to make this statement!)


Cream and cookie crumble in your tea?

November 25, 2012 Comments Off on Cream and cookie crumble in your tea?

Although the gradual disappearance (near-disappearance, lately) of decent tea from retail across the globe (including once tea-drinking nations like Poland) can be directly linked to absence of major tea internationals — coffee is aggressively pushed by several international companies with good marketing muscle, there is no one capable of championing tea — for a tea-drinker, Starbuck’s entry into the tea business is no reason to celebrate.  Being an American company, they won’t promote tea; they will promote some sort of tasteless Frankestein available in seventeen flavors, including cookie crumble and M&M.  This has a good chance of being the final nail in tea’s coffin.

Needing a coat and finding myself in a little money

November 24, 2012 Comments Off on Needing a coat and finding myself in a little money

Needing a coat and finding myself in a little money I checked out a few top of the line clothing retailers and what I have discovered shocked me:  although prices were indeed as high as I have expected (and even higher:  1385 euros for a mid-level brand trench coat?) the selection and quality were very poor.  Stitching was not any better than at Zara; materials absolute crap (every fur coat I looked at was made with died fur — furriers die inferior fur to hide blemishes and uneven color, in other words, in order to mis-sell crap fur at good fur’s prices); and no one had any sizes: most items were in 2 or 3 middle sizes: if you are tall (or short), tough luck.  I have been noting, and writing about, the progressive decline of quality at the upper end of the market — every market — from housing to food to art — for some years.  But this is ridiculous.  The only option is to have things tailored – which, given the ridiculous prices of these ready-mades (yes, ready-mades, after all), would actually be an economic alternative — if there were any tailors left.  Which there aren’t as everyone has been effectively steered into telemarketing.

That the most dangerous thing in the world is a stupid woman

November 17, 2012 Comments Off on That the most dangerous thing in the world is a stupid woman

In the bizarre Petreus Affair the most powerful nation on earth lost two of her most powerful and talented leaders because two dumb bitches squabbled over popularity on an army base in Florida.  “Oh, how dangerous can it be to screw her”, the Super Commanderl Petreus thought to himself before swinging into action, “she’s too dumb to be dangerous”.  How wrong he was:  clearly, a dumb woman is more dangerous than a whole squad of highly trained and dangerously armed assassins.  Lesson?  Stay away from the dumb.

The Queequeg Phenomenon

November 4, 2012 Comments Off on The Queequeg Phenomenon

The Queequeg Phenomenon is described in Chapter 10 of Moby Dick.  Here is the hero reflecting on his roommate’s invitation to join him in the worship of a heathen idol:

I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God—THAT is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—THAT is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world. But we did not go to sleep without some little chat.

The Queequeg Phenomenon consists, on the one hand, of the inborn human expectation that people who wish to be our friends will worship our idols (our gods, our songsters, our political candidates, our moral principles, our pictures); and, on the other, the general human readiness to trade our likes and dislikes, more or less honestly, in exchange for the chance to make friends and influence people.

Is it obvious only to me that views tradeable for influence aren’t really views and that friends won through dissimulation cannot possibly be worth having?

Why I am neither

November 3, 2012 Comments Off on Why I am neither

He, he.

Neuroscience reveals brain differences between Republicans and Democrats

The results found more neural activity in areas believed to be linked with broad social connectedness in Democrats (friends, the world at-large) and more activity in areas linked with tight social connectedness in the Republicans (family, country).

A scan of my brain would reveal no activity in any areas related to social connectedness at all.


November 1, 2012 Comments Off on Bluebeard

Bluebeard, on the other hand, is a play about a different kind of misunderstanding:  a younger person (Judith) nosing about the private record of an older one (her new husband’s past):  what she discovers terrifies her.  Rightly or wrongly?  It is hard to say:  some people really do have dark secrets; but often what is a secret only seems dark because the discoverer does not know all the facts, or does not have the personal experience which might allow him or her to be a good judge.  In my personal life, I have always preferred not to open closed doors:  on the theory that if what is behind is really important, my partners will eventually tell me about it, and if it is not important, then I don’t need/care to know.  But this is a kind of wisdom which only comes with age — if at all.  Perhaps also it comes more easily to the self-confident:  fear scurries in search of hidden facts, but contentment is content to let things alone.  A lesson in wisdom, perhaps, but one that cannot really be taught.