Saturday, August 1, 2015

Kings and Queens step aside.......................

George Thorogood & The Destroyers................Bad To The Bone



via

So, I've been reading my Mencken............


When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
-H. L. Mencken,  Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920)

If only the Intertunnel...........................


...........................had existed in the old days (like when I was in school).  Have some fun with your history lessons:

Question:  Did Thomas Jefferson actively pursue a "courageous struggle against slavery"?

Answer A:  Darned right he did.  Case made here.

Answer B:  Surely you jest.    Case made here.

We report.  You decide.

Conflicted........................


"Observing heated political conflict in the U.S. today, one does not know whether to shake one’s head in sadness or to be thankful that it provides a relatively non-violent outlet for group hatred."
-Arnold Kling, as excerpted from this post

Fifty years ago.................................

The Beau Brummels........................................You Tell Me Why

Interaction...............................


The gestation of  Toy Story 2 offers a number of lessons that were vital to Pixar's evolution.  Remember that the spine of the story - Woody's dilemma, to stay or to go - was the same before and after the Braintrust worked it over.  One version didn't work at all, and the other was deeply affecting.  Why?  Talented storytellers had found a way to make viewers care, and the evolution of this story line made it abundantly clear to me:  If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up.  If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.
      The takeaway here is worth repeating:  Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.  It is easy to say you want talented people, and you do, but the way those people interact with one another is the real key.  Even the smartest people can form an ineffective team if they are mismatched.  That means it is better to focus on how the team is performing, not on the talents of the individuals within it.  A good team is make up of people who complement each other.  There is an important principle here that may seem obvious, yet - in my experience - is not obvious at all.  Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the idea right.

-Ed Catmull,  Creativity, Inc.:  Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration

Interaction...........................continued

    
      This is an issue I have thought a lot about over the years.  Once,  I was having lunch with the president of another movie studio, who told me that his biggest problem was not finding good people;  it was finding good ideas.  I remember being stunned when he said that - it seemed patently false to me, in part because I'd found the exact opposite to be true on Toy Story 2.  I resolved to test whether what seemed a given to me was, in fact, a common belief.  So for the next couple of years I made a habit, when giving talks, of  posing the question to my audience:  Which is more valuable, good ideas or good people?  No matter whether I was talking to retired business executives or students, to high school principals or artists, when I asked for a show of hands, the audiences would be split 50-50.  (Statisticians will tell you that when you get a perfect split like this, it doesn't mean that have know the right answer - it means they are all guessing, picking at random, as if flipping a coin.)
     People think so little about this, in all these years, only one person in an audience has ever pointed out the false dichotomy.  To me the answer should be obvious:  Ideas come from people.  Therefore, people are more important than ideas.

-Ed Catmull,  Creativity, Inc.:  Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration.

Justice is served..........................


"This is a great little story by itself, but then the defense attorney, Drew Justice, went and committed an act of pure awesomeness."

Acts of pure awesomeness deserve to be read.  If it pleases the court, please read this.

via

First World Problems..............................


..........are never a problem at the First World Problem Store.

via

Friday, July 31, 2015

Better watch your speed.........................

The Grateful Dead...................................................Casey Jones

Instant............................................

















L'homme est libre au moment qu'il veut l'être.
Man is free at the instant he wants to be.
-Voltaire

cartoon via

Progress is sometimes illusory..........................
















Les anciens Romains élevaient des prodiges d'architecture pour faire combattre des bêtes.
The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture for wild beasts to fight in.
-Voltaire


Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"

Dimly.........................................























Nous cherchons tous le bonheur, mais sans savoir où, comme les ivrognes qui cherchent leur maison, sachant confusément qu'ils en ont une.
We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it:  like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.
-Voltaire

Fifty years ago...................................

The Beau Brummels...............................................Laugh Laugh

Cultivate.....................................


La vie est hérissée de ces épines, et je n'y sais d'autre remède que de cultiver son jardin.
Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one's garden.
-Voltaire

About 40 light-years across......................



















"A false science makes atheists, a true science prostrates men before the Deity"
-Voltaire

APOD description and larger photo here

Not unlike this blog................................




















On parle toujours mal quand on n'a rien à dire.
One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say.
-Voltaire

cartoon via

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Love will find us in the end.......................

The Moody Blues.......................................Lost In A Lost World

Difficult to imagine a better CD............


Sitting here, minding my own business, with a CD playing,  not-so-quietly, in the background.  The home-made playlist:

The Beatles
     While My Guitar Gently Weeps  
     All You Need Is Love

Dave Mason
     Look At Me Look At You
     All Along The Watchtower

Grassroots
     Let's Live For Today

Marshall Tucker
     Running Like The Wind
     Dream Lover

U2
     New Year's Day
     Sunday Bloody Sunday

The Zombies
     She's Not There

Roger McGuinn
     Dreamland

Led Zeppelin
     Stairway to Heaven

Kansas
     Dust In The Wind

Youngbloods
     Get Together

Mountain
     Theme From The Imaginary Western

On expressing a living, flexible thinking.....


      So what Montaigne criticizes the philosophers for is not that they express their opinions, far from it:  opinion is precious and is a stimulus to further thought.  Where they go wrong is in tricking their ideas out as absolute truths.  But we can think of the world, or God, only on the basis of our own selves and the contingencies of our lives.  this is why the philosopher can never attain certainty, merely communicate personal convictions.  In other words, a philosophy expresses first and foremost what is felt and thought by a human being in a given society at a specific moment in history.  People of a pessimistic temper will produce philosophies imbued with pessimism, just as optimists will be inclined to view mankind and the world through optimistic eyes.
      What is phony is erecting our philosophy, our vision of human beings, the world or God into a universal system.  Two centuries before Immanuel Kant, Montaigne put metaphysics to death.  This helps us understand the objective he was pursuing in the writing of the Essays:  expressing a living, flexible thinking that follows the ups and downs of everyday life, one that is subjective and far removed from any dogmatic pretention.

-Frederic Lenoir,  Happiness:  A Philosopher's Guide

Checking in with Montaigne..............


“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness. ” 

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” 

“When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.” 

“If I speak of myself in different ways, that is because I look at myself in different ways.” 

"There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well spent.”

“Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.” 

“I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly.”

"Life itself is neither a good nor an evil: life is where good or evil find a place, depending on how you make it for them.”

“Que sçais-je?" (What do I know?)” 

Wiki on Michel de Montaigne is here.

An equation...............................


    It's almost as if Montaigne's temperament could be reduced to an equation:  a low but accurate view of one's own nature plus a capacity for wonder and astonishment at the bizarreness of creation equals a calming spirit of equipoise.  He was, as Bakewell puts it, "liberated to lightheartedness."  He seemed to maintain an even keel, neither surrendering to exuberance when things were going well nor falling into despair when they weren't.  He created a prose style that embodied graceful nonchalance and then tried to become as cool as his writing.

-David Brooks,  The Road to Character

So, you think you understand the Middle East?


David Goldman thinks he does........................

 What makes the outcome of the Iran nuclear deal so dangerous is that none of the parties to the agreement has thought through the consequences of its actions, least of all Iran itself. They are not so much sleepwalkers, as historian Christopher Clark characterized the combatants who stumbled into World War I, as waking fantasists.

Full essay is here.

Fifty years ago..................................

The Moody Blues....................................................I'll Go Crazy

99 rules....................................

I suspect these were written by a 40-something, but they are still worth reading.  A few keepers:

1.   Measure yourself only against your previous self.
3.   Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.
26.   Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain.
27.   Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.
28.   Admit it when you’re wrong, and forgive yourself for your mistakes.
86.  Don’t use the word “closure” or ever expect it in real life.

Ah, Trump and the "radical middle"...................


A brash showboat and celebrity, self-promoter and controversialist, silly and mocking, a caricature of a caricature, Donald Trump is no one’s idea of a serious presidential candidate. Which is exactly why the radical middle finds him refreshing. Not an iota of him is politically correct, he plays by no rules of comity or civility, he genuflects to no party or institution, he is unafraid of and antagonistic toward the media, and he challenges the conventional wisdom of both parties, which holds that there is no real cost to illegal immigration and to trade with China.
-Matthew Continetti, as excerpted from here

Where's the fun in being practical..........?

The starting point for any solution to the Greek crisis, or the continuing problem of US mortgage default, should not be to ask who is to blame but what is likely to work.   Morality does not come into it.   Better the non-judgmentalism of St Luke’s gospel:   “And if you lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye?   For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.”
-John Kay, as excerpted from here

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Now that I discovered you.....................

The Moody Blues.................................................For My Lady

Indeterminacy.....................................


Turing was particularly interested in the math at the core of quantum physics, which described how events at the subatomic level are governed by statistical probabilities rather than laws that determine things with certainty.  He believed (at least while he was young) that this uncertainty and indeterminacy at the subatomic level permitted humans to exercise free will - a trait that, if true, would seem to distinguish them from machines.  In other words, because events at the subatomic level are not predetermined,  that opens the way for our thoughts and actions not to be predetermined.

-Walter Isaacson,  The Innovators:  How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Here's a novel approach..............


"Don’t buy what someone wants to sell you.  Instead, research what you need, and buy that."
-David Merkel, as excerpted from here

Pursue vs. Ensue............................


"Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue... as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a course greater than oneself."

-Victor Frankl

Sort of like blogging..................................



































via

Fifty years ago...............................

The Moody Blues....................................................I Don't Mind

Attachment....................................















"When unattached to the right ends, communities can be more barbarous than individuals."
-David Brooks

for the curious amongst you who wonder if this iconic photo was staged, you may want to look at this

Believe it or not, this was written in 1955...........


      Like the machines which delight and enthrall them, the masses are neither good not bad.  Machines have made our lives complicated and intellect has made our minds restless.  Poise, assurance and serenity seem to be beyond our grasp, and to gain a false sense of security the individual blends with others in a new entity, the mass.  The spectre of the mass hovers over public affairs, industry, business, social life and manners.  The great danger with the mass is not right thought or wrong thought but the utter absence of thought.   The immense impact of mass media on our lives encourages passivity, acquiescence, conformity.  The mind is benumbed and the will paralysed.   Instead of courageous independent thinking, there is a susceptibility to words, to symbols of crude emotion.  The collective wisdom of the masses is a misnomer for surrender to emotionalism.  Those who manipulate the people acquire great influence.  Politics has become a gamble in mass psychology.   It was the masses that stoned the Bastille; it was the masses that responded by collective rapture to Hitler-in-the-brewery.  It is the masses who are being exploited today for ideological crusades.  The leaders of public opinion use the techniques of propaganda for controlling public opinion.

-Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan,  Recovery of Faith

Recognizing that feeling........................


"I am in much dismay at having gotten so amazing a quagmire and botheration with these Numbers that I cannot possibly get things done today ... I am in a charming state of confusion."

-Ada, Countess of Lovelace, as extracted from here

Now, that is how you build a fence..........















 "Good fences make good neighbors."
-with apologies to Robert Frost

photo via