treetops redux, not everything

treetops redux

Let the river rock you like a cradle
Climb to the treetops, child, if you’re able
Let your hands tie a knot across the table.

from Follow by Richie Havens, lyrics Jerry Merrick

not everything

That not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me

from I Shall Believe by Sheryl Crow and Bill Buttrell


contrast lily, glowing green liars, top rightie propaganda stories of 2008

contrast lily

I thought I knew. Between certain political leaders past and present there are plenty of examples, How Lying Works

* To conceal misdeeds and stay out of trouble. Wrongdoings often can’t be undone, and it’s rare that owning up to a misdeed will result in a positive outcome (at least in the short term). ­These lies are told to avoid responsibility and repercussions.

* To preserve reputation. A recovering drug addict may lie about time spent in a treatment facility, especially to a potential employer or romantic prospect. A lie like this is told to avoid shame or embarrassment.

* To avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Children learn early on to be polite, not to point out physical flaws, and to say “thank you” even after they receive something they don’t like. These “white lies” are distinguished from other types because they carry no ill will or bad intentions.

* To increase stature and reputation. Some lies are told without any obvious external stimulus, such as a demand for an answer to a specific question. This type of lie is often narcissistic in nature, told to make the liar seem more accomplished, skilled or gifted as a means of gaining favor in the eyes of others.

* To manipulate. These lies aren’t evasive or defensive, but rather aggressive and malicious in nature. Such lies are told to gain wealth, love, favor or other assets by damaging another’s reputation or spreading harmful untruths.

* To control information. As opposed to airing a falsehood, indirect lying is withholding or concealing important facts. This is often seen as a more acceptable form of lying, since a person doesn’t actively construct lies, but only sits tightly on the truth. A missing piece of information can completely alter the understanding of an event, leading American courts to demand not only the truth, but “the whole truth.”

The third one composes a good sized part of the foundation of civilization, marriage, friendship and safe passage on some public transportation. The day those kinds of lies stop might be the day that the earth, or humanity anyway stands still. Five and six have their merits if you’re mental make-up tends toward the sociopathic. You can indirectly, see Ma no blood on my hands, murder someone or lots of people. The banana split school of murder, slather the top with some creamy noble sounding BS about national security and patriotism, toss on some sugary blather about carrying out the will of a deity and you’ll even have some people working overtime defending you. I wonder if this woman couldn’t work on manipulating some proteins that make the unrepentant five and sixers glow green.

vacation surprise

The Top 10 Rightblogger Stories of 2008 – by Roy Edroso

#8: The Hoover Boom. “This election year does look quite a bit like Hoover vs. Roosevelt (and given that choice, I’ll take Hoover),” said National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, setting off a little avalanche of rightblogger warnings that “electing Obama and the congressional Democrats will be like electing FDR in 1932.”

You hear that America if you do the right thing you’ll be punished – I can imagine  Mr. Goldberg’s still wagging, but gangrenous finger of freakish self righteousness falling off in about a year.

#6: The War on Starbucks. For Michelle Malkin, even hot beverages are political. Malkin announced she was giving up Starbucks because they wouldn’t let customers put the phrase “Laissez Faire” on their gift cards, and switched to Dunkin’ Donuts because they were “unapologetic supporters of immigration enforcement.” Then she denounced Dunkin’ Donuts because Rachel Ray wore a keffiyeh in one of their ads, but relented when the ad was pulled. The price of breakfast is eternal vigilance!

Proper scarf attire was all important to Jefferson and Madison. First women wear scarfs and what’s next – short skirts and hip huggers. Everyone with an ounce or 29 ml of common sense knows that neck adornments are the lubricant on the slippery slope to Purgatory. They banned scarfs in the original Constitution which was burned by jihadists that came over as stowaways on the Mayflower.

public figures and scientific illiteracy, rain on wall, sex and breakfast

Scientific illiteracy all the rage among the glitterati

Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns. “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate,” said President-elect Obama. “Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it,” he said.

His words were echoed by Mr McCain. “It’s indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what’s causing it,” he said. “There’s strong evidence that indicates it’s got to do with a preservative in the vaccines.”

Exhaustive research has failed to substantiate any link to vaccines or any preservatives. The rise in autism is thought to be due to an increased awareness of the condition.

Sarah Palin, former VP candidate and currently selling a calender to help buy a new home made the list for her ignorance about fruit fly research. Tom Cruise, who comes from an educated family should know better then proclaiming that psychiatry was a crime against humanity – such sweeping condemnations should never pass the lips of a Scientologist. The whole thimerosal and vaccine controversy should be a mote point by now. Thimerosal was removed from vaccines in 2001. So had there been any statistically discernible relationship between thimerosal and autism there would have been a corresponding decline in rates of autism. There hasn’t been. Then there was the wonderful actress Julianne Moore who thinks that because it comes raw from nature its safer to put on your face or body then something that might contain some synthesized products. Health and beauty products that are natural ingredient based might well be better for the environment and we’ll have fewer chemicals mixed in with our water supply, but nature naturally makes some pretty toxic stuff. I would stay away from the poison frog punch, the digitalis brownies and the lion fish stew, for instance.

A Mr. Connor who wrote this piece might make the dubious journalism awards for remarks like “is no better than many of us” which is more then obvious sensationalism. Even the title with the word glitterati. What is that. It is apparently so loosely defined it includes John McCain and Kate Moss. John did ditch the first wife for a rich heiress, but I didn’t realize he and Kate hung with the same crowd.I’ve read some writers complain that sometimes editors push a more provocative title for a piece to grab reader’s attention, maybe that was the case.

rain on stone wall

No breakfast, earlier sex: Japan study

There are many theories on the links between food and sex, but Japanese researchers have came up with a new finding – young people who skip breakfast tend to lose their virginity earlier.

In a study of 3,000 people, those who did not regularly eat breakfast when in their early teens said they lost their virginity at an average age of 17.5, versus an overall average age of 19 for all Japanese.

For those who had a morning meal when they were younger, the average age of having the first sexual experience was 19.4.

To be fair I should try to find the original research, but it seems the only connection they have found is a correlation between early loss of virginity and not eating breakfast. They have not found a cause and effect. Further down in the piece one of the researcher makes a statement that lends one to suspect they are aware of this on some level, “If children don’t feel comfortable in their family environment, they tend to go out,” and acknowledged that teens that are having relations tend to get home later and sleep in rather then eat. Missing breakfasts might be a sign of a lot of things – not liking breakfast for one, but missing it might be the result of other activity, not the cause of that activity.

the jungle, orangutans calculate reciprocity, simple ratings or censorship

the jungle

Orangutans learn to trade favours

Orangutans can help each other get food by trading tokens, scientists have discovered – but only if the help goes in both directions.

Researchers from the University of St Andrews found orangutans could learn the value of tokens and trade them, helping each other win bananas.

An article in Biology Letters, claims it is the first evidence of “calculated reciprocity” in non-human primates.

It shouldn’t matter in terms of who routting for one species or the other because of the dangers of anthropomorphism, but for years  gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and chimpanzees were in competition as our closet relatives. After some modern era DNA hybridization and chromosomal structure analysis, as well as some protein studies the majority of scientists thought the chimp was our closest relative. Its not an unimportant evolutionary biology contest since chimps are frequently the last stage of testing for new medications. Since chimps were not able to put the pieces of this behavioral puzzle together – imagining the results of a future behavior that might not have immediate rewards ( the female orang caught on quickly while the male she used her tokens for took a while to understand how reciprocating benefited him – again, no anthropomorphizing), I wonder if the closest relative contest won’t be revisited in terms of higher brain functions rather then just genes and proteins.

toned down

The story is from the U.K., but since he mentions president-elect Obama its pertinent for the U.S. too.When I first glanced at this headline I thought the obvious, it was about simply assigning sites a rating like a movie or video game, Internet sites could be given ‘cinema-style age ratings’, Culture Secretary says

However, Mr Burnham said: “If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It’s true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue.

“There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.”

Mr Burnham reveals that he is currently considering a range of new safeguards. Initially, as with copyright violations, these could be policed by internet providers. However, new laws may be threatened if the initial approach is not successful.

Burnham said without irony that some of his proposals might be seen as “heavy-handed”. Let’s say that WordPress started asking bloggers to self regulate and assign their sites a rating that in turn would activate some filters on end user PCs. Not a bad idea, but while the government can be very effective at accomplishing some goals, looking out for content that might corrupt someone is not one of them. Using children as an excuse and a buttress against criticism usually smacks of  a shabby agenda – put a child lock on the MAC, electronically lock your TV. If they leave it up to ISPs that might open a back door to ending net neutrality – just get your group together and report a site as offensive to choke off their traffic.

the wisdom of hunter-gatherers, the appearances concerto

Children Educate Themselves III: The Wisdom of Hunter-Gatherers

2. The children learn all this without being taught.

Although hunter-gatherer children must learn an enormous amount, hunter-gatherers have nothing like school. Adults do not establish a curriculum, or attempt to motivate children to learn, or give lessons, or monitor children’s progress. When asked how children learn what they need to know, hunter-gatherer adults invariably answer with words that mean essentially: “They teach themselves through their observations, play, and exploration.” Occasionally an adult might offer a word of advice or demonstrate how to do something better, such as how to shape an arrowhead, but such help is given only when the child clearly desires it. Adults to not initiate, direct, or interfere with children’s activities. Adults do not show any evidence of worry about their children’s education; millennia of experience have proven to them that children are experts at educating themselves.

Sometimes I tend to think that modern western culture, despite our cowboy-superhero mythologizing, engages in too much infantizing of children, in the sense risks are managed to the micro degree. The anecdote: From the H&G network last year. A parent tells a home renovation specialist that her cement patio must be removed, her children might fall and hurt themselves. A world for children, free of concrete. A world that would have its charms for a hiker like myself, but not practical. Yet who would stand there and take issue with a parent(s) who, though subjectively, have good intentions and desire to act in the best interests of their children.This is where an anonymous blog comes in handy. I would never have this discussion with such a parent. Hell hath no fury like parents who’s parenting judgment is questioned. Dr. Gray and other researchers insights into letting children manage themselves: learn through play, develop hunting and gathering skills required for their survival without the benefit of locked down toilet seats, obviously works for these tribes. Their/our descendants go back as far as human history.

Nobody has to tell or encourage the children to do all this. They do it naturally because, like children everywhere, there is nothing that they desire more than to grow up and to be like the successful adults that they see around them. The desire to grow up is a powerful motive that blends with the drives to play and explore and ensures that children, if given a chance, will practice endlessly the skills that they need to develop to become effective adults.

Anecdote two: I have een parents scream and shove their children to keep them from trying to help. Have you ever seen a kid take her hammer and mimic mom nailing together a new bookcase. My mom and dad, the center of my world are doing something, the child thinks, I naturally want to be a part of that, to learn those activities. Infantizing comes by way of excluding or telling children they’re too dumb to participate – the kids will ruin whatever it is – the smart adult in non-hunter gathering societies not seeming able to figure a way to make them part of the activity. I wonder if western culture hasn’t lost its intuitive sense about children because we over value preparing them for a very structured way of life – school, then earning potential, then work, then “settling down” and family on the sociological side, and to prepare them for abstract thinking on the intellectual side. Our manners tend to be very structured with an emphasis toward children “seating still” – the idealized situation for working parents that have to deal with the pressure of modern life and the various demands that must be navigated in order to maintain a certain life style and give their children the opportunity to rinse and repeat – the same economic and social advantages. Its curious how we got from being hunter-gatherers to where we are. I have no desire at all to return to those good old days, snare my dinner or live in hut, but probably like a lot of people I have a love hate relationship with modern culture; McMansions, noise, congestion, street crime, the internal combustion engine, the burbs, the little piece of plastic wrap around the top of vitamin bottles and having lost sight of our egalitarian ideals. I really need to lay off the M&Ms. My original intent was a three sentence comment.

the appearances concerto

“Every conversation of the cottagers now opened new wonders to me. While I listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the Arabian, the strange system of human society was explained to me. I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty, of rank, descent, and noble blood.

“The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches. A man might be respected with only one of these advantages, but without either he was considered, except in very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few! And what was I? Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides, endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?

“I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!

from Frankenstein, Chapter 13 by  Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

view with boundaries, life coaches the existential threat, “we” did have a choice

view with boundaries

Dear inkbluesky,
My ‘life coach” has a hair style that reminds me of a cartoon cat that stuck its tail in a wall socket. Should I be taking advice from someone that cannot tell a good hair cut from a shocked chia pet.

Best Wishes,

Dear Curious,
To first put things in perspective, Benjamin Franklin once said “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” So to pay someone who claims to be so wise that its worth some serious coinage is a scene from an existential play where one clown keeps pestering another clown, asking if his clown shoes were big enough. I once knew a retired tailor, a tall distinguished gentleman with the requisite silver hair, who spent his entire working life making custom suits for men. Every time I saw him he was wearing the same suit. I also knew a woman that claimed being truthful was of the highest virtue. To anyone that would listen would come the righteous declaration, she hated liars. She was a serial liar and gossip, totally oblivious to her hypocrisy. Is there some great truth to be learned here. I’m not sure, but people can have qualities and skills that one can learn from even though there are absurd contradiction between what they do and, well, what they do. That is not a typo. So a life coach that reminds you of Albert Einstein on a bad hair day will allow you to feel a slight superiority and thus keep you from feeling like a complete weenie for paying someone to help you decide how to live your life. Should your finances take a turn for the worse, you might consider replacing your coach with a used paperback copy of The Great Gatsby, listening to some Warren Zevon and eating a bowel of blue berries with real whipped cream once a week. If this all sounds a little screwy, truths are like that in a propaganda enriched culture and consider this, The CIA is offering free Viagra to Afghan warlords and chieftains in order to build alliances.

landing pads

Dollar shift: While Americans spent, Chinese saved

“Usually it’s the rich country lending to the poor. This time, it’s the poor country lending to the rich.”

Niall Ferguson

In March 2005, a low-key Princeton economist who had become a Federal Reserve governor coined a novel theory to explain the growing tendency of Americans to borrow from foreigners, particularly the Chinese, to finance their heavy spending.

The problem, he said, was not that Americans spend too much, but that foreigners save too much. The Chinese have piled up so much excess savings that they lend money to the United States at low rates, underwriting American consumption.

This colossal credit cycle could not last forever, he said. But in a global economy, the transfer of Chinese money to America was a market phenomenon that would take years, even a decade, to work itself out. For now, he said, “we probably have little choice except to be patient.”

Today, the dependence of the United States on Chinese money looks less benign. And the economist who proposed the theory, Ben Bernanke, is dealing with the consequences, having been promoted to chairman of the Fed in 2006, as these cross-border money flows were reaching stratospheric levels.

In the past decade, China has invested upward of $1 trillion, mostly earnings from manufacturing exports, into American government bonds and government-backed mortgage debt. That has lowered interest rates and helped fuel a historic consumption binge and housing bubble in the United States.

China, some economists say, lulled American consumers, and their leaders, into complacency about their spendthrift ways.

“This was a blinking red light,” said Kenneth Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. “We should have reacted to it.”

I remember reading that nonsense from  Ben Bernanke first as an echo by far Right bloggers as a way to defend Bush and an incredibly obsequious Republican Congress’s insane spending spree. Professor Rogoff is off base when he says “We” should have reacted. “We” objected and complained. We might have as well have had a long conversation with a wall. Conservatives were well aware that the only real economic growth during the Bush years was in the health-care sector. Combined with disproportionally distributed tax cuts, revenue from GDP growth became a pie in the sky promise that We knew it was.

William Eggleston is one of my favorite photographers. Since he’s from the South I also get to bask in a little regional pride. He currently has an exhibit at the Whitney. The Nation has a write up,  Point and Place: William Eggleston’s Vibrant Spaces

Calling his grand and gorgeous retrospective at the Whitney “Democratic Camera,” Eggleston might seem to imply that anybody can do it. (The exhibition can be seen there through January 25; it then travels to the Haus der Kunst in Munich, where it will run from February 20 to May 17.) Well, maybe anybody could have made these pictures–anybody, as long as he was born in 1939; raised in Mississippi (in the town where Emmett Till was later lynched) as the asthmatic scion of a wealthy old planter family; developed an early affinity for art and music, and for the gear associated with it (cameras, audio equipment); passed through Ole Miss and various other Southern universities without bothering to take a degree; discovered Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment at just the decisive moment when he was still young enough for the book to have the deepest and most unprepared impact yet mature enough to be able to start reacting constructively to it…

This will take you directly to the on-line exhibit at the Whitney.

who wrote frankenstein, house of the seven gables

Does it matter who wrote Frankenstein? Like any other work, even the most modest among us resent others getting credit for our iniative, our efforts. The stakes can be especially high in literature. Jennifer Howard writes in The Birth of ‘Frankenstein’, whether Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley or her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was the author or whether they were co-authors was important. Especially so in the 70s when scholars set out to give women their rightful place in the western cannon of literature. Not unlike some modern urban myths there was some speculation on publication of the second edition in 1823 about Mary’s authorship because the first edition was published anonymously when Mary was only 19. Mysterious anonymous novels by very young women just wasn’t the social or intellectual norm. Such violations of the social code are ripe for people’s projections and some people just enjoy gossipy and malicious speculations, they still do – see Drudge, Fox or talk radio. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus wasn’t an early attempt at a comic graphic novel without pictures with text balloons. It was a serious  look at abusing new knowledge via science. With Frankenstein, Mary looked at where humanity was, and imagined what the future might look like. Jules Verne, thought of as one of the earliest of science fiction writers wasn’t even born until 1828. So if you’re a feminist, male or female, is it important that a woman get credit for writing the first science fiction novel that has inspired so much other work, not just literature, but philosophy, movies and art.

Robinson picks out some suggestive examples that contrast Mary’s taste for direct language with Percy’s penchant for Latinate elaborations. Mary describes a character entering a sick room before “it was safe”; Percy revises that to “before the danger of infection was past.” Walton, the ship’s captain to whom Frankenstein tells his hair-raising tale, calls a reverie of Victor’s “peculiarly interresting” [sic] in Mary’s draft; Percy changes that to “almost as interesting & imposing as truth.” Victor’s lament that “the brightness of a loved eye can have faded” becomes, in Percy’s words, “the brightness of a loved eye can be extinguished.”

[  ]…All told, Robinson identified about 3,000 words that Percy wrote into Mary’s draft. Add that tally to changes that Percy is known to have made later, during the run-up to publication, and you have a total of about 5,000 words of Percy’s in a 72,000-word novel.

Percy Shelley was something of a literary prodigy, to not use him as a literal in-house editor would have been like a modern writer not using spell check. Percy had far less total impact on Mary’s final draft of  Frankenstein, then legendary editor Maxwell Perkins had on the final published works of Ernest Hemingway and most certainly Thomas Wolfe. I’ve provided a spoiler above, but the whole article is worth reading to fellow the exhaustive detective work of Charles E. Robinson, a professor of English at the University of Delaware to provide those exacting word counts and documentation.

A side note. Frankenstein was the name of the man who created the ‘monster’. The monster in fact was nameless. A literary device used by Mary Shelley to add more mystery and symbolism.

winter- house of the seven gables, wikipedia entry here. nathaniel hawthorne’s childhood home.