Saturday, August 03, 2002
Small win for the good guys...From the web sirte of the National Right To Work Foundation, a decision in favor of openness.
San Francisco, Calif. (August 2, 2002) – The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that local affiliates of the California Teacher Association (CTA) must provide teachers with an independent verification of how they spend employees’ forced union dues...
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BeatnixityI was writing about conformity yesterday, and, thinking about it some more, I would add: If anybody tells you they are a nonconformist, it's probably hokum. They really mean that they are conforming to some group that calls itself nonconformist. I'm a beatnik, I wear the Beatnik uniform, therefore I'm a nonconformist. (Yeah, yeah, I know they didn't call themselves beatniks and that some people are still mad at Herb for coining the word.)
Now me, I'm a nonconformist. But it's just by accident; somehow I always seem to come at life from a different angle than other people. So my wittiest sallies are met with silence, or maybe ignored like impolite sounds. I'd like to conform, I just never got the hang of it. It's a flaw. If I could find a group of people like me, I would gladly conform like crazy in order to fit in with the gang...
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New garb at DODGEBLOG
DODGEBLOG, written by Andrew Ian Dodge and MommaBear, has a cool new look, with a crest. I like it, it has bears, wolves, octopi, and various curious and obscure symbols.
Back before she was bloggiting herself, MommaBear used to pepper other webloggers with interesting tid-bits culled from the news. Lots of them. I used to believe the rumors that she was CIA, and felt a quiet pride in my government for being so hip to the 'net. Yet now I begin to wonder ... the crest includes an opaque motto: Dodgeblogium regnat Vis a Cthulhu.
I can't imagine what that might mean, but the feeling-tone evoked is decidedly peculiar. It gives rise to obscure feelings of unease, even dread. Could the waters here be deeper, murkier, than we suspect?
That is not dead which
Friday, August 02, 2002
Long-lost delights, and myths, of the 1950'sI mentioned hearing sonic booms in my youth. The sonic booms were connected, no doubt, with the threat of Soviet bombers. For defense against bombers, our town also had a Nike Missile base, (LA-29, Brea/Puente) which I visited, and remember vividly.
Nowadays we run our dog at Fort Funston, here in SF, and the first time I went to the parking lot there, (Picture Here) I knew I was on a former Nike Battery. The lot is a palimpsest of ancient things revealed by a patchwork of asphalt repairs. You can still see three rows of four rectangles, and #3 in each row is different. The Nike launchers were always in rows of four, with #3 able to retract into a bunker to be quickly reloaded. This was a terrific puzzle to me as a boy -- if retractors were good, then why not have them on every launcher? (I had not yet discovered the artistic charm of asymmetry.)
There are certain images that have become established in our culture concerning America in the 50's. I think they are, to put it mildly, not reliable. I think certain people hate the 1950's, because that was when many of their assumptions were revealed to be false. They happen to be the same people who make books and magazines and movies, and so they have filled the popular mind with myths and distortions.
One of those myths is 1950's as a period of stultifying conformity. This is baloney. Most people conform to the norms of their group most of the time. What certain people hate was that millions were conforming to the wrong script. They were supposed to be playing downtrodden blue-collar workers humbly grateful to leftist organizers and intellectuals who would protect them from Capitalism. If they had conformed within that role, no one would have minded. (And when anybody conformed to the Beatnik role, or the existentialist philosopher role, or the tweedy college prof role, that was just ducky)
In fact, in the 1950's, Capitalism was sucking huge numbers of workers up into more-or-less middle-class life. And middle class was being smoothed down to something that a whole lot of people could fit into (for instance, middle class no longer meant having a cook or a maid!)
Large numbers of Americans (and probably people in other developed countries, though I can't speak for them) were conforming to middle-class norms because they were tired of being poor and just scraping by during two decades of depression and war, and now they finally had a chance to make a good life.
And what did they do when they had some financial security? They started doing more things than people had ever done before. The 50's were the start of an enormous expansion in the variety of American life. We had a swimming pool when I was growing up, and I remember some of our friends and neighbors using it to learn the very new art of Scuba. They had to cut and paste up their own wet-suits! They were entering a new realm of activity never seen on earth before. But social critics would probably have called them middle-class suburban conformists.
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Spacecraft at your local airport?In Pork Versus Pork, Rand discusses congressional plans to develop Wallops Island in Virginia as a new Cape Canaveral.
... But these requirements are one of the things that make previous (and current) generation launch vehicles expensive, unreliable and unwieldy. A next-generation launch vehicle, if it's worthy of the name, should take an entirely different approach to launch operations, and if it does so, most of what we think we know about requirements for spaceports is wrong. This is bad news for both the Cape and Wallops Island.
Thursday, August 01, 2002
Here are some more of my friend's reminiscences ...
• When paper currency was larger- yes, larger than it is today; and bore the note "payable to the bearer on demand in silver". A postage stamp cost four cents, and pocket change might contain Indian Head pennies, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, Walking Liberty quarters, or Benjamin Franklin half-dollars. (Every coin larger than a nickel was silver, of course.) Morgan and Peace silver dollars were common- except to a kid like me.While writing a possible next post, I thought of another delight from the 50's: SONIC BOOMS! They seemed to come often. The house would shake and the windows would rattle, and I knew neat things were happening in the sky (perhaps the grown-ups felt differently.)
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Just tell us how to pronounce it...I've been bothered by this for a long time: It's hard to think about something if you don't have a word for it, but it's also hard if you don't know how to pronounce the word.
But there is some sort of taboo against telling how things are pronounced. For instance, Charlene and I own a lot of books on gardening and plants, some of them very technical. But they never let on how to pronounce the words. In the index of Jones there are 44 entries for the genus Pteris. But does he tell me how to pronounce it? No way. (I think it's terris)
I just read the following in Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus:
...The recent Spectator, earlier mentioned, had a review of Leonardo Sciascia’s new book, The Moro Affair. Sciascia is a great, Sicilian author, one I studied in college. The reviewer lamented that Sciascia wasn’t a bigger deal in Britain, offering several explanations, including, “Might it be, even, that English readers are not quite sure how to pronounce his name, so don’t ask for him in bookshops or recommend him to their friends?” (It’s “sha-sha.”)I've stumbled over Bagehot for decades. The publisher of Sciascia's books should put a little pronunciation note on the cover. The public would be grateful. But they won't. It's taboo.
Iaasic Asimov wrote somewhere that when he began adding simple pronunciation hints to his non-fiction science books, he got lots of favorble letters and comments, that knowing how to pronounce the words made the subjects much less intimidating and more enjoyable. I wish other authors would do the same.
Another tid-bit while I'm on the subject. The brothers Loughead of Santa Barbara, California, started an aircraft company in 1926. But the 'venture capitalist' who put up the money made one special demand; phonetic spelling of their name! I don't know how much that helped, but they were successful, you've probably heard of LOCKHEED.
Update; Hilda Hartling, a librarian, writes: Sir: I appreciated your post about pronunciation of names ... That bugs me even when I'm reading a novel. You feel like a doofus when you don't know how to say an author or character's name -- even if it's going to be said only in your head as you read, never aloud. Madame, you have hit it exactly. Even though you don't need to say the word aloud, it's like hitting a pothole in the road -- one's mental traffic stream is jolted and slowed ...
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The tears for slain children, by men who send their women and children out to die as suicide bombers, are the tears of crocodiles. --Wesley Pruden
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Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Op-Ed columns are supposed to represent the point of view of the writer, and not that of the paper in which they're published. They're a primary vehicle for broadening the scope of newspaper's editorial pages, and for bringing voices into the public policy dialog that wouldn't otherwise be represented. This isn't the case at the New York Times, however, where editors require Op-Ed contributors to alter their messages to conform to the paper's point of view...
.. who needs enemies..! The career diplomats at the EU have decided that the time is just right to strengthen the hands of the mullahs in Iran - It is so much simpler to talk government to government, elite power-broker to elite power-broker, than to understand that the will of the people in Iran today is very distinct and different from the will of their rulers..!
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Monday, July 29, 2002
I was born in 1950, yet I remember:Helms, Daily at your Door. Boy, that's a Southern California memory ... See 'em here and here
• Being rowed in a wooden rowboat with wooden oars to the far shore of the lake by my grandmother to pick wildflowers, or digging up worms by the coffee-can full out behind the grain elevators with my grandfather. Sitting on the basement steps drawing, while my grandmother did laundry in a washing machine with gear-driven rubber 'wringer' rollers that looked ancient even then.I didn't know my friend had so many "country" memories. I knew him in our suburban town, La Habra, in Orange County... though even that was still partly rural when we were young. Some open fields, and lots of citrus and avacado groves. Migrant workers, Mexican mostly, would show up for picking. They would build a little fire to heat their beans, and scoop them up with tortillas...
• Burma-Shave signs, with their clever little gags read a line at a time as the miles went by; faded "Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco" signs on rotting, half-collapsed barns of abandoned farmsteads. Rainwater barrels and screened porches for sleeping at night; Aunt Gertie's Cabin with a half-dozen cousins clambering around in a treehouse or stealing away to the long, silent rows of ripening corn across the road. The Hamms Beer jingle on the radio.'...from the land of sky-blue waters, Hamms, the beer refreshing. .. Hamms'.Yeah, I've seen Burma Shave signs. They were red with white lettering, and always came in fives, four for the jingle, then the last one said Burma Shave... In this vale__Of toil and sin__Your head grows bald__But not your chin__Burma Shave.
The Mailpouch Tobacco signs were always painted on the roof of the barn, you could see them from far away.
• Phone prefixes, like "OXbow-2745", rotary dial phones with Bakelite housings, not having an area code; and long-distance calls requiring an operator. (The voices sounded scratchy and faint, and you dared not talk but a minute). ONE phone company- though Western Union was always there for death notifications and news of similar disasters. No Zip Codes, but you might have a Postal Zone like "L.A. 41".My Aunt still has the same phone number I learned as a kid--but the LAmbert prefix is just numbers now.
These are just some of them; perhaps I'll post more soon...
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The UN is responsible for legitimizing and spreading the Arab propaganda line about "Israeli occupation of Arab land", "illegal Jewish settlements", and "the Palestinians' right to self-determination". The logical conclusion from this line is support for a second Palestinian-Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in addition to the Palestinian-Arab state that already exists in Jordan. The article below represents the first part of a "catalogue" of arguments for opposing the creation of the second Palestinian-Arab state. The "catalogue" will be updated continually...
Sunday, July 28, 2002
Vain human kind! Fantastic race!Rob Schwarz wrote, regarding my rant about the Archbishop:
At least in America the vast majority of churchgoers are seen as conservative. Would a super-liberal Archbishop increase the number of worshipers or simply drive the last few out?...I have little doubt that in England, as here, the churchgoers are more conservative than the church. In fact, every large organization (except businesses, and sometimes even them) tends to be taken over by leftists.
Why? Why does the same thing keep happening? It's because the leftys are the very people who think large organizations, rather than individuals, should be running everything. Therefore they are the ones who spend their career energies burrowing into soft berths in, say, the Red Cross, or the State Dept, or City Hall, or the Sierra Club, or the Archdiocese ...
But WHY do they love big organizations, and dislike any flourishing of individuals? It is because of this, written by one of my heroes:
I think John Adams hit it exactly, and the passion for superiority is the driving force behind much of what happens in the world. What has this to do with individualism? Well, if people can do whatever they like with their lives, they do 10,000 different things! And that means that if you are, say, the Archbishop of Wales, and you are amazed at how clever and superior you are; for every person who agrees that you're hot shit, there are 9,999 who hardly care if you exist. Grief and Vexation indeed!
Now many of us have a few crumbs of humility, and we realize we just aren't going to be acclaimed as the superior beings we like to think we are. If you click away to another weblog because you find me boring, I'm cut to the heart, but c'est la vie, baby. That's life, gotta accept it.
But suppose I don't accept that? Suppose I'm the Archbishop of Wales and I'm wise and witty and profound; and being ignored by most of the world is not acceptable! What do I do? What are my options?
To start with I will be doing anything I can to get rid of this individualism stuff. All this sordid striving after private gains and personal desires will begin to be utterly repellant. I will discover, like a revelation, that the heart of my Christian Mission is the battle against consumerism and mass pleasures.
Of course I will gravitate towards government and large quasi-governmental organizations. The state (and its outriders) is the only thing that can over-rule the marketplace. It's therefore the only hope for combating these individualist evils.
AND I will find various tyrannical and un-democratic states to be not really all that obnoxious. (They will help me out by pretending to be striving for "social justice" or the good of workers and peasants, or some such.)
AND, I will discover that countries and groups that excel at individual achievement, democracy, and capitalism are horribly flawed, and in fact downright evil. And who will head the list of these monsters? Who always heads the list? AMERICANS and JEWS!
AND, what is another name for those who tend towards this loathing of individualism and freedom, and would like to see large governmental organizations take benevolent control of everything? We call them The Left! Now you know.
There, I've just explained about 80% of everything that happens. If you have thoroughly absorbed this lesson you've done enough, you and I can take the rest of the week off. Forget weblogs for a while. Start a good book. Perhaps Seven Suspects or something by Patrick O'Brian.
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THOUGH OSAMA BIN LADEN, Afghanistan, Israel, and Iraq have commanded our attention since September 11, it is always good to remind ourselves that the most consequential country in the Muslim Middle East is Iran. This has been true, with a few intermissions, for a thousand years. ...