Friday, May 25, 2012

This week's thoughts


Back in the day, CNN stalwart Larry King used to also write a column where he would list his random thoughts. I seriously doubt he invented it, and I also thought they were pretty insipid. I’ve read some others who use the same format, and I hereby take it on myself:

Dahrun Ravi secretly recorded his roommate Tyler Clementi having sex with another man and and showed it live to friends. Soon after, Tyler, who had only recently “came out” to his family, killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus years of community service, classes and probation earlier this week. He also might get deported back to India. But, he could have gotten up to ten years in jail. Even some gay rights groups had asked that he not be given an absurd amount of time, because there were likely other reasons, including the general stigmatization of gays, why he might have killed himself. Now, though, there is a lot of outrage by those who think the judge was too lenient.  Obviously, the judge was not comfortable really attributing the death to Ravi. Were I the court, I would have given him more than 30 days, but not years either. Certainly, this was way beyond a mere prank. A prank might be telling your roommate you videotaped him having sex and letting him hang for ten seconds. This was a gross violation of privacy and anyone's sense of decency. 30 days is not enough for just putting someone’s naked picture online (at least someone who didn’t know you were taking it). And I would include someone’s own spouse in that. 

On the other hand, I seriously doubt Ravi intended anything more than humiliation for Tyler, if he even thought that far. While I feel terribly sorry for Tyler and his family and friends, Ravi is either a very immature or emotionally damaged young man himself who made a very stupid mistake. While he needs to be seriously punished, he will also pay for this emotionally the rest of his life (unless he's actually a sociopath). In my opinion, the sentence should have been some 3-9 months, because even if a victim had no visible reaction to such provocation - the humiliation most people, regardless of sexual persuasion, would go through is enormous. I can't hold him responsible for Tyler's death either (however, I do not expect stoicism from Tyler's loved ones, who are entitled to be more outraged). The behavior Ravi is convicted of must be deterred, particularly with the ready availability of tiny or unseen cameras in the world. Some months' jail time is deterrence enough. Even a few days in jail is pretty horrible for most people. Though I would have given more time, if I were the appeals court, the sentence is not so disparate with what I believe should have been the sentence that I would increase it, particularly as there are other non-custodial penalties that last years.
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Is it me, or is the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin affair looking like a repeat of the Duke Rape case that could even end with a prosecutor losing her job, if not worse. If this case (Zimmerman) taught of anything - again! - it is that you have to wait until you have all the facts that can be had before you make up your mind. It is easy to get swept up in what everyone is saying at the beginning. I did. But, sometimes there is never enough information to be sure, even after a trial. At this point, and from shortly after the initial fraudulent NBC airing was exposed, it is still very reminiscent of the sham we went through at Duke. Conservatives are right that there is an acceptance of reverse discrimination in the media and even a drumbeat among many to find old fashioned white majority racism and to hide black racism. Neither is acceptable. We are, as a society, making a mistake on top of a mistake that will delay the cessation of both.
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I think everyone is aware of the Secret Service Cartagena sex scandal to discuss it without much of a preliminary paragraph being necessary. I watched Mark Sullivan, the head of the agency, testify before the Senate this week and the number one concern everyone claimed they had was security. Did the agents put themselves in position where an enemy could get information that might leave the president vulnerable by bringing prostitutes (legal in Colombia) back to their hotel?

My question is - what is the rule if a secret service agent meets a women on a trip and brings her back to his hotel for sex without there being any payment involved? Isn't there the access to classified information in that case too? The same access to the agent's weapons that there would be if she were a prostitute? If the agent is married, or it is a same-sex encounter, there is possibly the same chance of blackmail too as with a prostitute. I'm not suggesting that any of this should or should not be allowed, but, I do not see the big difference between those scenarios and taking a prostitute back to a hotel room in terms of security. In fact, I would expect that an agent having a relationship of any sort, even here at home, might present a greater security threat than a one time event with a prostitute where information and weapons can be carefully secured. Also, isn't drinking itself a bigger secuity risk? I suspect that the answer from many people would be something on the line of - "Oh, come on. It's just different." And that is because the real issue here is prestige and embarrassment, not security.

Moreover, as was pointed out in the hearing by Sen. Collins, these men did not act in a group as if on a big bachelor party, but individually or in small groups and did the very same thing on the same night, indicating repeated behavior, at the least. If, indeed, this has long been the case, as some indicate, and there have not been security breaches, why should we expect there would be one now at all?

Mr. Sullivan stated at the hearing that draconian rules have been put in place but that he did not believe they were necessary for secret service agents. Though I condone his honesty, it means he is now acting for political points and to save his own job. I thought he testified well and probably should not be blamed for the behavior of some agents, but, on the other hand, if he cannot run his agency without taking draconion steps in order to preserve his job, it might be best that he step down without any loss of benefits or prestige.

But, those conservatives sure aren't right about everything. It is just baffling to me that they, who claim that they do not want goverment telling people what to do, so desperately want gov't to tell some people that they can't use a word "marriage" to describe their relationship. It has  seemed to me for a long time just silly that conservatives believe marriage is a word fixed in stone (the only one ever on the planet) and do not realize that their own sexual mores have changed too, over time. Ask Newt Gingrich and Mayor Giuliani. No, they probably don’t realize it either.

It is equally baffling that conservatives, who claim they want religious freedom, want to tell people whose religions would permit same sex marriage, that the government should not recognize it because it is against theirs.

It is also baffling that conservatives, who claim that they believe people should be in families, don't want gay people to be in families.

I’ve debated all of the conservative points on these issues (although I can rarely get a conservative to address any point I make on it directly). Some, like the fact that any gay person is entitled to marry a person of the opposite sex, just like heterosexuals, reminds me of separate of equal. And, no, I disagree with them that you can't compare racism with bigotry against gays.  Conservatives try and get past this by claiming that homosexuality is a choice. Why someone would ever choose to go through the pain and suffering the gays I know in coming out went through, no one can explain to me.

There is nothing wrong with people clinging to tradition. I cling to mine. In fact, I buy that some of our most important rights and customs have been carried forward by traditions rather than some creative artificial step by step process (which doesn’t seem to work at all), although it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. But that doesn't mean we should cling to traditions that deprive some people of the same rights as others.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said that Speaker Boehner’s raising the debt ceiling again was incredibly irresponsible. But, somehow, spending, borrowing and printing more money than we can obviously afford is not so. How . . . ?

Where do we have evidence that stimulus money from the government equals growth? Roosevelt’s own treasury secretary said that it didn’t work. It is admitted that the stimulus in ’09 didn’t work. Why is there still an argument about it in Europe and America?  Does anyone recall that Russia and China both turned around by, at least in part, giving up Communism and adopting capitalism? That the U.S.S.R was helpless before Germany without the “arsenal of democracy” (that is, capitalism)? I don’t think Paul Krugman does.

Just as sometimes it is okay to cling to a tradition, it is also okay to give a strategy a chance to, although it is difficult to known when to fold. But there is something wrong with clinging to strategies that have never worked and probably never will. There is a basic flaw in the approach that government spending is a good thing. The money isn't the government's. It must be either collected from people, borrowed and paid back (ultimately through taxes on people) or created in a way that results in inflation, which eventually costs people too. Almost every argument I hear about spending more ignores these basic facts.

In the case of spending our way out of a recession, other problems arise. One of them is that in order to give certain people or groups money, the government is taking from people (who might very well need it to survive) and giving to other people or groups so that they can do better. The same scenario as described in the above paragraphs applies, except that the additional problem we usually describe as "picking winners and losers" also applies. The money going to, just as an example, GM, is not being given to competitors or to those who might want to enter into competition. Sometimes, the spending of money on certain industries becomes so institutionalized, that it is seen by some as deserved or just part of the system. This would include "big" energy and Wall Street. And both Democrats and Republicans participate in it. It seems that in their minds, if they don't do it, the system will fail. Of course, as we see, it fails anyway, and other systems that might work are frozen out, never to be given a chance. I can write on this subject for a long time (and just deleted several paragraphs when I saw it getting out of hand), so I am going to do the smart thing and move along.
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The last few years there have been two books, one philosophy and one psychology, both dealing with the unfortunate workings of our minds, which have been big best sellers. One of them is Nassim Taleb’s Black Swans, which instructs us that you can’t rely on experience to tell you what is going to happen next and the other is Daniel Kahneman’s Fast and Slow Thinking, which explores the mistakes we make in our judgments by relying on the wrong kind of thinking. The authors have a mutual admiration society thing going, but, if you've read them, can you explain to me, what do they tell us that David Hume didn’t teach a quarter of a millennium ago?

In fact, I would argue that Taleb overstates his case that we should not pay so much attention to experience as many things in life are quite predictable for a long time. While Taleb certainly recognizes that many things are predictable, the emphasis and tone of the book minimizes it too much. I know at least two people I regularly debate who completely learned the wrong lessons from the book - believing that almost nothing is predictable (except, of course, for everything they rely on everyday, as we all must, and less certain things they think likely, because, we all do that too). I can't blame Taleb completely, as it is not his fault that people skim or take from books only what supports their theories. But, he did not help in my view.

I have fewer issues with Fast and Slow Thinking. Kahneman, considered one of the world’s great experimental scientists (and perhaps, economists), reviews studies showing us that we come to many decisions we think are rational for largely irrational reasons, in some part because we tend not to think statistically or logically, which is hard work. Instead, we rely on strategies that doesn’t take much hard thinking and often work on a very elemental level, but not more complex ones. Now really, what successful businessperson, magician, writer, politician, salesperson, stock trader (and so on, ad infinitum) needs Kahneman’s book to know that? Of course, there are many people who don't, and I guess that is the point of his book. However, Fast and Slow Thinking does provide us with some ammunition, in the form of experiments, to bolster our own arguements, and I appreciate it.
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I’ve been having trouble reading fiction the last few years. Maybe there is no reason to analyze why, but there’s no real reason to write this blog either. I just want to. My guess is that there are three reasons. First, as I learned about myself when I was young, I mostly read for the sake of information. You obviously can learn much more with non-fiction (and you can’t trust what you might think is factual in fiction at all), although certainly you can also learn much more that it not true. Spare me that fiction is closer to some metaphorical "truth." I get it, but that's not what I am talking about. Second, there really are very few themes in fiction, just as we learned in grade school. It gets repetitious when you’ve read enough, and I’ve read who knows how many hundreds (probably more) novels. Maybe more. When I moved from Long Island I know gave away about 300 books alone and that was a fraction of what I’ve read. Third, and this is the most subjective reason – I like what I like. Most of my favorite authors are either really old or even dead British guys. That narrows your search mightily. And, with most writers, even some you might love, after a while, they start to repeat themselves to the degree that you just don’t want to read them anymore, or, if you do, it is out of some strange loyalty to a fictional character. I find that happens with television too.

So, while I'm on fiction, I might as well list my favorite fictional authors here with my favorite book(s) or series of theirs. Deep breath – Shakespeare (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth stand out), Tolkien (you guess which ones), H. Rider Haggard (The People of the Mist and Eric Brighteyes, which were far from his most famous), James Fenimore Cooper (Leatherstocking Tales), Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers novels and The Count of Monte Cristo, plus the less well known La Reine Margot), Mark Twain (Pudd'nhead Wilson and Letters to the Earth, but it may be his zillion pithy quotes I love best), Rudyard Kipling (Kim, The Man Who Would be King and the poem, If), J. M. Barrie (do you really have to ask which one?), John Fowles (The Magus), Albert Camus (The Stranger), Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Mother Night – probably not the standard choice, and Player Piano), Knut Hamsun (Pan), Hermann Hesse (The Steppenwolf), George MacDonald Fraser (I’ll take his Flashman books to hell with me – perhaps I loved Flashman at the Charge best), John LeCarre (The Smiley trilogy, of course), John Irving (would that I could write something like The World According to Garp or Setting Free the Bears), Larry McMurty (Lonesome Dove), Damon Runyan (many short stories come to mind, but the The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, the basis of my favorite musical, Guys and Dolls, shouldn’t be missed), John Myers Myers (Silverlock), Agatha Christie (but only the Poirot books),Tony Hillerman (I can no longer differentiate between his Navajo Indian reservation mysteries – just loved them all), Ian Fleming (From Russia with Love), Steven Pressfield (perhaps my favorite historical novelist - Gates of Fire stands out), Dashiell Hammett (The Glass Key more than The Maltese Falcon), Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me), Raymond Chandler (I really can’t choose between them, but, I guess I’ll just say The Big Sleep because it is probably the best known), Rex Stout (another one so hard to choose from, but probably The Doorbell Rang and The Black Mountain top my list), John Mortimer (all the Rumpole books, of course), Lawrence Block (the brilliant Mr. Block, still writing away like a madman has the Evan Michael Tanner series and the Matthew Scudder series and The Bernie Rhodenbarr Burglar series and the Hit Man series – he must never stop for a second), Robert Parker (who with Block, conquered the modern serious/light hearted detective genre – his Spenser series is priceless, the best of which was Valediction), Adam Hall (whose Quiller was even edgier and more adrenaline fueled than Bond – if I had to pick one, Quiller’s Run),  Robert Crais (there are a slew of great Elvis Cole and Joe Pine novels, but one about a cop on the periphery of those characters, Demolition Angel, was my favorite), James Lee Burke (I’m done with him, but his Robicheaux novels were perhaps the most lyrical American mystery novels ever – In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, best), Robert Ludlum (if for nothing else, The Bourne Identity) David Lindsey (whose Mercy was like a roman candle of a novel, and one of the few sexual novels I was not bored with – why has he stopped writing?), Andrew Vachss (the first six Burke novels were superb and I’d take them in order; after that they became a little too dark and sad for me) and George C. Chesbro (one of the most original mystery writers – his Mongo and Veil series were virtually unknown mystery/fantasy classics – but even the titles sparkled – try just these three – Two Songs This Archangel Sings, The Fear in Yesterday’s Rings and Dark Chant in Crimson Key).

I left out some who really wrote only one book I loved, Hemingway (For Whom the Bells Tolls – yeah, that and The Old Man and the Sea were the only ones I could get through), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Matt Lewis’s somehow less well known but I thought even better gothic novel, The Monk), E. R. R. Eddison (The Worm Ouroboros), John Bellairs (The Face in the Frost) and Abraham Rodriguez (The Buddha Book). Who knows what I left out – many I’m sure - but I have to move on.

I may get tired of novelists, but having lived in Virginia for a few years surrounded by national parks, I find I don’t get tired of looking at the views at all. I asked my landlord, who has lived her most of his 82 years, whether he ever got tired of the view of the mountains from his house. “Not yet,” he said, with no hesitation. We had pouring rain this afternoon. Two reasons that makes me happy. First, it keeps the river water high, which is good for kayaking. The second reason is that clouds in the mountains are more beautiful than anywhere else. I know you might be thinking clouds are clouds, but if you live around mountains you know it ain’t so. I read The Iliad endlessly, and I am pretty sure that the descriptions of cloud-gathering Zeus, clouds that hide combatants and lovers, clouds that gate Olympus and so on work for me so much  because of where I live. Living on Long Island, I didn’t have a lot of reasons to drive in the rain. Now, with clouds peeking out of valleys, stretching across meadows, enfolding the peaks and so on, it is probably my favorite time to drive or sit on the porch.
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I was sitting on my porch with Montana Don a few weeks ago when a red fox ran from my back yard across the street, did a jig in front some bushes and then tore off into the woods with a house cat in pursuit (I hope it didn’t catch the fox, but there didn’t seem to be a chance of it given their vastly disparate speeds). Foxes are really cool. I saw one on Long Island only once in my 48 years there in a woodsy area. They look like cartoon characters and there is something about their faces that do make them seem crafty or intelligent. They also seem to keep clean and well groomed – at least the two I’ve seen.

Speaking of which, with the fox, my list of animals I’ve seen here grows: bear, deer, vulture, wild turkey, otter, coyote, bald eagle, beaver, weasel, ground hog, many types of hawk, snapping turtles, rattlesnake, cottonmouth, copperhead and other snake, tiny chirping toads and endless amounts of insects and birds I can’t even name. This year 17 year locusts hatched. They are much like other cicada, but prettier. I found one in the river the other day and rescued him. He stayed on the front of my kayak clinging to a cord until he dried off and could fly. I called him Fluffy. Actually, I don’t think he made it. They don't live too long. Still haven’t seen a bobcat here and I think the myth of the Eastern cougar, regardless of how many sightings from credible people there are, has been completely debunked.

I’m listening to a Cato panel talk on C-Span about the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship. The Navy is betting heavily on them. They are small and very fast but also powerful, and large enough to carry helicopters, land vehicles, troops and cargo. They have a shallow draft for landings. It launches air, sea and underwater vehicles. It is, hopefully, cheap (please – like all military equipment, the cost overruns have been punishing) and a multi-tasker, but a little weak in air defense and surface to surface missiles. There is a lot of controversy with it, but maybe that is inevitable when you bring something out where everything is new. This is the new Navy though. Get used to it. Actually, there are apparently two different versions, which look alike, but with different capabilities.
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I don’t think it has sunk into many people’s heads how much our Air Force is going to change in the next decade or so along with everything else. The amazing F-22s (if they can ever get them to work right) and F-35s (really four somewhat different planes) may not be virtually obsolete by the time they can really use them, but I think they will be the last piloted fighter planes we really rely on. Drones are going to be everything. They will be smaller, some too small for any person or radar system to see, and they will be more powerful in terms of speed, communications, surveillance and weapons. But, it won't just be for the military. Domestically, they will spy on us, probably completely destroying any notions of privacy we have ever had. You don’t think so? It’s already happening. Look at, e.g., http://www.electronista.com/articles/12/05/09/usaf.can.keep.drone.footage.for.90.days/ . You don’t think you are going to have to stop speeding and going through yellow lights when thousands of tiny drones are recording you and sending tickets wirelessly to your home? No, they will not need to testify in court. It is inevitable, I’m afraid, just like the wireless devices for internet connections that will be imbedded in every baby (“Do you want your child to be the only one who can’t instantly access the internet? You might as well not vaccinate him either.”) Part of me hopes I’m dead before all that happens, and more than a older people I know have echoed the sentiment, but stronger, when we discussed the possibilities.

Some people, including in the military, will continue to like the idea of the manned plane, but, it took people a while to get used to cell phones, electronic databases and readers, etc. The new drones will be so superior – and, will be controlled by one or more men sitting in lounging chairs, anyway, that the end is inevitable. My general rule for how fast something new is going to take over is to take what seems possible and then divide that in half.

Of all the American commercial successes, McDonald’s tops my list. Despite the fact that I rarely eat there anymore, their burgers and fries taste so good I could happily spend my last month on earth eating nothing but them (although at the end, I'd like some Chinese, a prime rib from The Wobbly Barn in Vermont and a slice of pecan pie with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream). I laughed when two friends who fancy themselves the arbiters of taste told me that McDonald’s objectively did not taste good. There has to be a reason the golden arches can be seen all over the world and it can’t just be that it is cheap. According to Wikipedia, McDonald’s Corporation operates in 119 countries and serves 68 million people A DAY. Dick and Mac McDonald essentially married Henry Ford to fast food. Was Ray Kroc, who joined them and then bought the business, a marketing genius, or did he just know how to hire marketing geniuses? Never really looked into it, but he sure did something right. I still remember the commercials and jingles from my childhood – You deserve a break today/At McDonalds!  There is a scene in Vonnegut’s autobiographical fantasy, Slaughter-House Five, when his character (he actually writes in his book that it is him – the author – which some people loved and others didn’t), a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, sneaks a taste of sweet syrup, and has been so starved of good things to eat the effect is orgasm like and causes his friend to cry when he tries it. I feel that way with each bite of fries or cheese burgers. Not tasty?  Well, they can argue it is not tasty to them, of course, and you can't argue it, but, there is such a thing in this world as consensus, and McDonald’s has the numbers on its side.
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Apparently some kooky women on an airplane this week asked for a doctor and said she had an explosive device implanted in her. A jet fighter escorted them to an emergency landing. There is only one reason to have a jet fighter escort - to blow the passenger plane out of the sky if it headed towards a city. It certainly can’t help it land or stop a bomb from blowing. But, I bet that, oddly, the sight of it made the passengers feel comforted – as in, yeah, the cavalry is here.

What’s more emblematic of how foolish we are in the way we chose a president, when one side is busy still bashing Bain Capital as if Romney is Gordon Gecko and on the other side some are still playing the birther card as if Obama is the Manchurian Candidate (despite, to be fair, some on each side saying to the campaigns and supporters - What are you doing?) Really, what are they doing? The truth is – as a group – this is what we must want and what the professionals believe we want, or we would do something else. A friend of mine said to me a few months ago that there was no choice to exaggerate grossly about the other side. It all makes me realize yet again, that running for office must be a horrible experience in so many ways, and I actually feel sorry for those who have the drive to do it, at least until they retire. I would have liked Indiana’s Governor Daniel’s to run for president, but I understand completely why he has acquiesced in his family’s desire that he not do so. It doesn’t matter at all that campaigns were worse in the past (and it was). Lots of things were worse. It reminds me of a quote from Friedrich Hayek on a related subject – “One cannot help wondering whether those who habitually use this cliché are aware that it expresses the fatalistic belief that we cannot learn from our mistakes, the most abject admission that we are incapable of using our intelligence. . . .” I think we can, but few want to.

Of course, nowadays, if you are president, you pretty much get to be fabulously wealthy the rest of your life after you are out of office just by showing up places and talking or signing your name to a letter. That might be a good enough reason to run.

So, Mark Zuckerberg got married. I hate it when that happens. None of my business, of course, but don’t you just want to say to her, “That’s fine if it’s about the money, but if you really love the knucklehead, sorry, because he probably IS going to cheat on you.” Look at who Tiger cheated on. Hugh Grant cheated on Elizabeth Hurley – and how many of Christie Brinkley’s husbands (is it all of them? I don’t really keep up). I know I’m being unfair. I know that I can’t base what this billionaire will do just because so many other wealthy celebrities do it. I know they’ve dated a long time (actually, I just learned that). And I know she’s not a supermodel. I know, I know, I know. But, it’s not going to surprise you either when it happens, is it? Sometimes, contemplating celebrity unfaithfulness I think that George Clooney might just be a really thoughtful guy. And, without any right to think so either, I suspect that every once in a while his buddy Brad Pitt is on the line, and George says, “Hey, I tried to warn you.”
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You want to know why our political campaigns are about such nonsense? Take this Pew Research Center poll from 2010. Asked who was Chief Judge of the Supreme Court and given 1 right and 3 wrong choices, far more people knew that it was John Roberts, than the next highest guess. Unfortunately, that "far more" for Roberts was only 28%, a little more than a quarter of those asked. And, the "next guess" was Thurgood Marshall (8%), who hadn't been on the bench in 19 years and was never the chief. Just below him was John Paul Stevens, who was at least on the bench then, but was never chief judge either (6%). Amazing, 4% guessed Harry Reid, who is a Senator (and I pray anyone who reads this knows that). Actually, Roberts was not really first choice. He was second. "Don't know" was first by close to double the amount (53%). At least in 1986, when they asked the question, some 43% knew that Rehnquist was the chief. And that name should be a lot harder to remember than Roberts. Are we getting less knowledgeable politically as a country than a quarter century ago? I really don't know. I just know it's not too good.
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Last random thought. I often spend time thinking about frivolous things when working out. I really do dislike every second, of every minute, of every hour doing it and I have to entertain myself. I have spent way too much time lately wondering how the folks on Gilligan’s Island would match up romantically while working out. I find when I discuss this with other people, they all seem to agree that the Professor and Marianne have to be together. They are caricatures like the others, but there’s something about them that seems normal. We must want “normal” people to be together. As for all the rest, I don’t think anyone hooks up with Ginger. Gilligan wouldn’t know what to do with her - he'd probably have fallen out of the hammock, and as for the Skipper, he can’t even take being with Gilligan for very long without blowing his stack. How’s he going to deal with Ginger? Oh, at some point, she will make a play for Mr. Howell. He’ll be tempted, but I really think he will resist. After all, who can compete with Lovey for his affections? Ginger might make a play for the Professor too, so Marianne better keep tabs on him.
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Done.

4 comments:

  1. For the love of God, get a job. Way, way, too much time on your hands. Loved your run down on fav fiction. Bored to tears by your Navy/Air Force "no kidding" rants- Kahneman and Taleb??? Are you stoned on your mountain top now-ness? Major influences. Pishtaw. Minor sideline players at best. Ask 100 people, I bet 99 have never heard of either book or either guy.

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  2. Well, you are right that most people have no idea who the two are, but, that is true of most famous writers, scientists, philosophers, etc. We are talking about a percentage of the population (bigger than you stated) who care about these things. But, as of April 18th Kahneman's book had spent 23 weeks in The New York Times best-seller list (top 20) and has been ranked 18th-29th since then. It has been described as one of the most influential psychology books of all time. Taleb's book was 36 weeks on The Times Best-Seller lists. The Sunday Times book review described it as one of the 12 most influential books since WWII. I disagree that either should be, but you are way off on this. They are really influential. You are also dismissing the fact that quite often big -isms, group thinks and paradigms start with the work of one scientist or author, like Copernicus, Newton, Marx, St. Paul, and so one, even if they were virtually unknown at the time or even thereafter.

    You have called down the thunder this week with your comments - but, thanks. I enjoyed it.

    Of course you liked my favorite authors list. You share a love for a lot of them. I can't believe I forgot Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote those books about - what was his name? Must be others.

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  3. You confuse influential with popular.

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  4. I do? No I don't. They are both POPULAR among people who read non-fiction, just like I am popular . . . bad example . . . just like most people don't know who Dusty Rhodes is, but he is popular among those who like pro-wrestling. They are both very influential in their professional circles and might be very influential in our culture given a little time, just as some others I've mentioned above were. You can be both or one or the other, or . . . now we come to me.

    ReplyDelete

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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .